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10 best Christmas Day games in NBA history

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This year on Christmas the NBA is celebrating its 75th edition of the NBA on Christmas Day. For the 15th consecutive season, NBA has scheduled five games for Christmas Day. Even though these are just like any other regular season games, the NBA schedule the best possible matchups and fans have another reason to enjoy the holiday season. Right before the holidays, we are going back to the 10 best NBA Christmas games.

Best NBA Christmas Games

Christmas Day is special for us NBA fans as we can enjoy five consecutive games watching the best teams going against each other. There have been many remarkable games in the past and in the following lines, we reminisce some of the greatest Christmas Day NBA games ever.

10. 2011: Lakers vs Bulls, 87-88

Derrick Rose became the youngest player to win the MVP award the previous season and he and the Chicago Bulls visited Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers on Christmas Day. Bryant was still in his prime and was eager to show Rose who still runs the league.

The game was close with both teams playing excellent defense. The Lakers took a six-point lead in the last minute of the game, and it seemed that the experience will once again overpower the youth.

However, the Bulls were not ready to die. Luol Deng went on to score five unanswered points in 25 seconds and the Lakers’ lead was down to one point. Deng then stole the ball at mid-court, and it was on Rose to win it for the Bulls. Rose drove to the paint and scored with 4.8 seconds to go. Bryant was blocked on the last shot and the Bulls escaped with a one-point victory.


9. 2013: Warriors vs Clippers, 105-103

These were the Golden State Warriors putting the cornerstones of their dynasty that will bring them four NBA championships in the following decade. Steph Curry was still just a young prospect for the Warriors who were led by head coach Mark Jackson at the time.

The Clippers were the team that looked more promising with Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan taking over the league with their Lob-City basketball. This game actually started the rivalry between these two teams not just because it was a close one with the whole world watching but because there were multiple incidents.

Both Draymond Green and Blake Griffin were ejected, and Andrew Bogut got a flagrant foul. The Warriors had a two-point lead and Jamal Crawford missed a potential game-winning three at the buzzer for the Clippers.

8. 1995: Magic vs Rockets, 92-90

Having a rematch of the previous NBA Finals guaranteed one of the best NBA Christmas Day games, which happened for the first time in 1995 when the Orlando Magic hosted the Houston Rockets.

The Rockets swept the Magic just months before in the NBA Finals and the young Magic squad was ready for revenge. Penny Hardaway scored two of his 22 points with three seconds to go to give the Magic a 92-90 win. Hakeem Olajuwon recorded 30 points and 12 rebounds to top Shaquille O’Neal‘s 22 points and 18 rebounds.


7. 2003: Magic vs Cavaliers, 113-101

LeBron James entered the league as the first overall pick in the 2003 NBA Draft and the league wasted no time putting him under the spotlight. The Cleveland Cavaliers were up to face the Orlando Magic in one of the best NBA Christmas Day games featuring LeBron James.

He was still just an 18-year-old and was about to go against the player many compared him to — Tracy McGrady. T-Mac was the league’s best scorer and had no mercy for the rookie. He scored 41 points to lead the Magic to a 113-101 win while James had 34 for the Cavs.

6. 2008: Lakers vs Celtics, 92-83

After 21 years, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics faced each other in the NBA Finals in 2008. The Celtics won in six games, and this was their first meeting after the 17th banner was lifted in Boston.

The Celtics were still the best team in the league coming to LA with a 19-game winning streak. It was a much closer game than the final score shows with Kobe leading the Lakers with 27 points. This game marked coach Phil Jackson‘s 1000th win, becoming the fastest coach to reach that milestone.

5. 1994: Bulls vs Knicks, 107-104 OT

Soon after Michael Jordan left the game for the first time, the Chicago Bulls hosted one of the greatest Christmas Day NBA games ever. The Knicks defeated the Bulls in the previous Playoffs in seven games and Scottie Pippen was determined to prove that he didn’t need MJ to win.

This game went to overtime and Pippen scored all seven points for the Bulls in the extra period. He finished the game with 36 points, 16 rebounds and 5 steals and had two blocks late in overtime to seal the deal for the Bulls.

4. 1985: Knicks vs Celtics, 113-104 2OT

The Boston Celtics visited New York on Christmas Day as the Eastern Conference champions. The Knicks fans were excited to see their rookie Patrick Ewing go against the best team in the conference.

The center proved that he was ready for the big league, leading his team to a 25-point comeback to win this game in double overtime. Ewing finished with 32 points and 11 rebounds. However, the Knicks finished that season with a 23-59 record while the Celtics won the NBA championship.

3. 1986: Knicks vs Bulls, 86-85

This game was Michael Jordan’s Christmas Day debut. He had a great performance scoring 30 points for Chicago, but the Bulls failed to beat the Knicks in the final seconds.

They were up by a point and then Patrick Ewing grabbed an offensive rebound and scored at the buzzer to win the game for the Knicks in probably one of the best NBA Christmas moments at Madison Square Garden. He finished with 28 points, 17 rebounds and 2 blocks.

2. 2016: Cavs vs Warriors, 109-108

The Cleveland Cavaliers became the first team in NBA history to come back from 3-1 down to win the Finals against the Golden State Warriors the previous season. Now the Warriors, with the addition of Kevin Durant, searched for payback on Christmas Day and thought they had it when they took a 14-lead down in the fourth quarter.

The Cavs didn’t back down once again and managed to come back. Kyrie Irving was the key player for the Cavaliers making a tough shot over Klay Thompson to put the Cavs up front with 3.4 seconds to go.

Kevin Durant stumbled on the final possession and Cleveland won. Durant finished the game with 36 points while LeBron James led the Cavs with 31 points and 13 rebounds.

1. 2004: Lakers vs Heat 102-104 OT

This was a highly anticipated game as Shaquille O’Neal returned to Los Angeles for the first time since the Lakers traded him in the off-season and it ended up as the best NBA Christmas game of all time.

It wasn’t a secret that he and Kobe Bryant were not on good terms after winning three consecutive NBA championships for the Lakers. Bryant wanted to prove that the Lakers can win with him running the show while Shaq was still the one who was credited as the main reason why the Lakers won a three-peat. Bryant was the better one in this game scoring 42 points in one of his best NBA Christmas performances. However, Bryant missed a three-pointer at the buzzer to win the game. Dwyane Wade led the Heat with 29 points while O’Neal finished with 24.

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