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Five things to watch out for in the Christmas Day games

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The NBA’s Christmas Day schedule is a great tradition. For over a decade, the league have been showing five consecutive games on 25th December, and 2019 is no different.

In what has been a whirlwind decade of basketball, this Christmas has the potential to be a cracker. Two Eastern Conference contenders meet in the opening game as the Celtics face the reigning champion Raptors before the league’s best, the Milwaukee Bucks, matchup with the Philadelphia 76ers.

Two playoff rivals reunite at 10pm GMT as Houston face a depleted Golden State Warriors team.

Attention then turns to Los Angeles for the Lakers and Clippers’ first meeting since opening night. The evening closes out with the Pelicans against the always underrated Nuggets.

Here are five things to watch out for as you settle down for the NBA’s packed Christmas Day schedule…


Lakers At The Rim

The Los Angeles Clippers’ one defensive vulnerability is in the paint. Montrezl Harrell and Ivica Zubac could have their work cut out dealing with Anthony Davis, LeBron James, Dwight Howard and JaVale McGee. The Lakers rank in top few teams in the league in two-point attempts, and they will be physical offensively to attack the supposedly inferior part of the Clips’ defence.

Paul George and Kawhi Leonard might have to guard Davis at times. How the former Pelican deals with that assignment will be fascinating – he needs to use the mismatch to his advantage rather than settling for mid-range jumpers.

LeBron’s Defence

There were concerns about this Lakers defence at the start of the season. James has been managing his workload on defence for several seasons, and despite some well-regarded personnel, the Lakers’ best defenders seemed to be a collection of players past their primes. They have quashed those worries in the early months, and currently rank fifth in defensive rating.

Over the last five games, however, the Lakers are 22nd in the same category. James and Davis are expected to play, but will they be able to give the same defensive effort if they are hobbled by their respective injuries?

Simmons’ Offensive Stagnation

Ben Simmons gets unfair criticism at times. Recently, though, the former first overall pick has held the Sixers back in some big games. The Bucks force teams to the perimeter, and Simmons’ reluctance to shoot could really hurt them. The Mavericks effectively nullified Simmons a few nights ago, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see something similar.


His role defensively against Giannis Antetokoumpo will be key still, but the Sixers need Simmons to offer something in the half-court in games like this. Milwaukee will dare him to shoot – this is as good a chance as any to get playoff practice in.

Celtics Have A Point To Prove

Boston’s record against upper echelon playoff teams still leaves questions to be answered. Two wins over the Mavericks, a comeback against the Bucks, an early season win over Toronto and a recent victory against the Heat are counterbalanced by losses to the Clippers, Nuggets, Sixers (twice) and Pacers. For all the praise the Celtics have received, Christmas Day is an opportunity to make a point.

Admittedly, they will get the chance to do it against a depleted Toronto team. Pascal Siakam and Marc Gasol‘s injuries change the dynamic significantly. The Raptors remain a tough opponent, though, as they showed in franchise-record comeback over the Mavs. The absence of Siakam is a shame, as it would have provided a real test for the Celts’ defence against size.

Red-Hot Denver

The Nuggets are the hottest team in the NBA right now. They face a Pelicans team heading for a rebuild. New Orleans handed Denver one of their few losses earlier in the season, on a night when the Nuggets’ offence barely turned up. Gary Harris, Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray combined for just 36 points.

A similar game may seem improbable, but the Pels have upped their performances of late, winning two of their last three. Despite owning a bottom seven defence across the season, they rank fifth in defensive rating over the last five games. Could we see an upset in Colorado?

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