Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Day Games Preview

I was sitting in my apartment listening to music contemplating whether or not to write this article, and I couldn't find a good reason not to. Even though this is an off day from my photography gig, I figured it was fitting if I gave my personal rendition of the Christmas day NBA games preview. Christmas day games in the NBA practically reinvent the season. It's like a second opening night. ABC does its first telecast to millions of viewers, many of whom are at home sitting on their couch watching basketball, which magnifies the intensity of the games to no end. Fans will not be disappointed tomorrow, as the NBA features five stellar match-ups that are sure to keep even the average basketball fan entertained. Here's a preview of the action tomorrow.

Boston Celtics @ Brooklyn Nets 12:00pm ET ESPN: Brooklyn owns the season series so far, and I think tomorrow should be no different. The game is in Brooklyn. The Nets are bigger, stronger, and better  than the Celtics at every position, not to mention deeper. Boston could make this game close by playing the Nets with savvy sophistication and matching Brooklyn's intensity early.

Key match-up: Deron Williams and Rajon Rondo could be the best single match-up of the entire day. Williams had 24 points in the first meeting between these two teams with Rondo out of the lineup. In a game a couple of weeks later, the two point guards seemed to cancel each other out, Williams scoring 8, and Rondo finishing with just 6, before getting ejected after an altercation with Kris Humphries, who is sidelined with an abdominal strain. Rondo will have to harass Williams tomorrow with his lock-down defense, and increase his scoring productivity, taking pressure off Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett. Meanwhile, Williams may have to look to be a distributor tomorrow, and feed Joe Johnson, who seems to have no problem scoring against Pierce.

Final Score: Brooklyn 92-Boston 86

New York Knicks @ Los Angeles Lakers 3:00pm ET ABC: This is the NBA's money game. A star-studded game in Hollywood featuring two of the league's most high-volume scorers, Carmelo Anthony and Kobe Bryant. 12 days ago in New York, the Knicks seemed to have their way with the Lakers, specifically on the pick-and-roll between Felton and Chandler, which the Lakers struggled mightily to defend, partially due to the absence of Pau Gasol, but also because of the Knicks' clear advantage at point guard, but with Steve Nash back that should change slightly. The Knicks are much deeper than the Lakers. Both Steve Novak and J.R. Smith had great games the last time these two teams met. I would expect the same thing to transpire in L.A. Kobe had 31 and 10, while Carmelo dropped 30 in the game at The Garden. Count on both these guys to get their points in tomorrow's game at Staples.

Key match-up: Carmelo Anthony will try to stay hot against one of the league's tougher defenders, Metta World Peace. The man formerly known as Ron Artest will have the difficult task of keeping the quicker Anthony in check, something he was not able to accomplish in their last meeting, allowing Carmelo to get off 30 points.

Final Score: New York 106-Los Angeles Lakers 97

Oklahoma City Thunder @ Miami Heat 5:30pm ET ABC: In a repeat of last year's NBA finals, the Miami Heat will seek to exert their dominance once again over the Thunder. Despite having a quicker point guard, and maybe the best scorer in the league, Oklahoma may fall victim to the team that has the best single player in the league. Last season, Durant proved he is at the same level as LeBron in almost every way. Russell Westbrook proved that he is an elite point guard. Serge Ibaka, and Thabo Sefolosha established themselves as elite defenders. But the Thunder do not have the best player in the game. LeBron and Wade have continued to prove just how scary they are as a tandem, and Chris Bosh has really developed into the legitimate third star that Miami was counting on him to become. Oklahoma will make this one close, but Miami still has the slight edge.

Key match-up: Kevin Durant and LeBron James will go head-to-head for the first time since last year's finals. I would expect LeBron to get the best of this match-up, but only by a slim margin. Durant will have to work hard to not pick-up cheap fouls against James who likes to use his body to draw contact and finish. On the other end, James will have to try and limit Durant's ability to fire up shots from any and every angle, which is no easy task. Undoubtedly, both players will see a variety of defenders on them throughout the game.

Final Score: Miami 102-Oklahoma City 101

Houston Rockets @ Chicago Bulls 8:00pm ET ESPN: The Rockets won the previous game between these two teams a little over a month ago in Houston, behind James Harden's 28 points. Luol Deng has been red hot, and played well against the Rockets in the last game, scoring 19 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. He'll have to make a considerable contribution again tomorrow if Chicago wants to get a win on their home floor.

Key match-up: Omer Asik will have the undesirable task of keeping Joakim Noah off the glass, but Asik is a tough player, and proved to be no pushover in the last meeting between these two teams, limiting Noah to 11 points and 7 rebounds, grabbing 6 boards himself in the process. Rebounding will be a major factor in tomorrow's contest, as will turnovers, and the ability of Chicago to find an answer for James Harden.

Final Score: Houston 107-Chicago 103

Denver Nuggets @ Los Angeles Clippers 10:30pm ET ESPN: In the second game of the day at Staples Center, the Clippers will look to outperform the purple and gold on Christmas day. Especially given a Lakers loss, the Clips could potentially be the talk of the town if they're able to knock off Denver and win their 14th straight game in the last of the 5 NBA Christmas day games. This is the first meeting between these two teams this season. The Clippers will come out looking to establish themselves in the highlight department early, but don't sleep on Denver. They match up well the Clippers, and are capable of producing some incredible plays themselves. There are quite a few intriguing match-ups in this game, and Denver should play the Clippers hard and close throughout.

Key match-up: Blake Griffin will try and dunk on Kenneth Faried at least once tomorrow, should they end up guarding each other. Griffin welcomed Faried to the league last year with a ferocious slam on the Nuggets forward, who had his back turned on the play. Later in the year, on a return trip to Denver, Griffin again made Faried part of his poster on a tomahawk jam right in Faried's face. But Faried is a competitor, and he has shown vast improvements within the last year, so it'll be interesting to see if they match up tomorrow at some point, or even for a majority of the game.

Final Score: Los Angeles Clippers 113-Denver 110 OT