Christmas Basketball, A Family tradition

Ranking the slate of Christmas Day NBA games was harder than you think

Lebron and the Lakers are ready for Christmas. Harry How/Getty Images

Christmas is my favorite holiday of the year. There's something about the surprises that come with the day that still get me. Eating until you literally cannot stuff another bite in your mouth. Exchanging gifts with people and enjoying their genuine joy, or their convincing lie covering their disappointment. Most of all, reuniting with the family to bond over the same things year after year.

As the NBA Christmas schedule has become more polarizing, it has become a tradition for there to be basketball on the television all day. Not everyone is pleased by that, but it is nothing hiding the television remote cannot fix.

Per usual, the line up this year features several high profile games, and the majority of them feel like playoff match ups. It has become a thought now that the NBA season does not really begin until the Christmas Day slate. With the active effort that the NBA makes to deliver thrilling match ups, it is hard not to agree.

In the spirit of Christmas, I sat down like a judgmental aunt and ranked these match ups. Are some of the factors outside of basketball? Of course, but what judgmental aunt is rational?

5. 11 a.m. Central-Milwaukee Bucks at New York Knicks

Listen, I get it, the New York market has to get its shine. But the 9-25 Knicks are not making anyone bat an eye. Sure, there is a potential for upside on this team, but that is not happening on Christmas Day. Forget it. In wrestling there is something called an enhancement match, or squash match if you want to be more brash about it. Essentially, in a squash match, the losing opponent's only job is to make their opponent look good. This game is nothing more than a chance for Giannis Antetokounmpo to Braun Strowman the James Ellsworth of the NBA, the New York Knicks.

4. 9:30 p.m. Central-Portland Trail Blazers at Utah Jazz

This game has playoff matchup written all over it. Sure, the Utah Jazz are currently sitting under .500 but with as tight as the West is looking to be, I am not letting this deter my excitement. I need to see Donovan Mitchell and Damian Lillard exchange baskets, I need Joe Ingles to hit a ridiculous three at the end of the game so I can catch it on Sports Center the next morning. Lets face it, as much as I am a fan of Mitchell, there is no stopping the Tamale Food Coma that I will be in by half time. Sorry, Spider.

3. 4:30 p.m. Central-Philadelphia 76ers at Boston Celtics

Speaking of playoff match ups, this was one last year in the semifinals of the Eastern Conference. As we all know, the 76ers unceremoniously bowed out of the playoffs losing the series 4-1 to the Celtics. That team did not have Jimmy Butler, though. What's that? The Celtics didn't have Hayward OR Irving? So you're telling me both teams got more star power this season? What else is there to be said? I am apologizing to my aunts now. No, we are not watching one those weird the birth of Jesus movies on Univision. An Eastern Conference Playoff preview will be on. Hell, this could be a preview to the Eastern Conference Finals, if the Toronto Raptors do not have anything to say about it.

2. 2 p.m. Central-Oklahoma City Thunder at Houston Rockets

Up to a few days ago, this was, without a doubt, the No. 1 game on this list. Did the Rowdies try to bribe me? Maybe, it is the Holidays so I needed the extra cash. Once their check bounced, or Chris Paul's injury happened, I was not as excited as a I originally was. The Thunder are quietly one of the best teams in the NBA. The Rockets, for all their struggles this season, have finally began to pick up some steam. With Harden having like his 50th straight MVP caliber season, and Russ and PG13 clicking on all cylinders, this game will clearly have some memorable moments. Unfortunately for us, we will not see this Rockets team at one 100 percent for this game, but hopefully that is not a sign of what is to come. I was torn between where to place this game after the CP3 injury (the top three are so tight, to me). But then, the Rockets decided to sign AUSTIN FREAKIN RIVERS. The guy who instigated the Locker Room fight that happened but they later tried to tell us did not happen and then said, forget it, it maybe happened? THAT guy is teammates with CHRIS PAUL and JAMES HARDEN? I am here for the drama, and the NBA Gods are the best sports Gods.

1. 7 p.m. Central-Los Angeles Lakers at Golden State Warriors

Am I a LeBron Stan? Sure. Do I often think about him one day being the President of The United States? Maybe (he can officially run in 2024, for those of you that are wondering). The fact of the matter is LeBron and his mix of youth and veterans you would have never thought he would team up with has been a fun watch this season. The opponent? The establishment. The team that crushes everyone's soul. The team that has never cared about your feelings and is not about to start to care about your feelings. The biggest rival of his career not named Dan Gilbert. The Rock to LeBron's Stone Cold . Sure, the Warriors should win this game. But, let us not forget, this is the NBA and Christmas Miracles are real. This will be the first time the Lakers face off with the Warriors in the regular season this year. More importantly, this is the first time LeBron and Durant face off since Durant's comments about the enviroment that comes with playing with LeBron. I am all here for the drama. For LeBron to give Durant a side eye after the comments he made a few weeks ago, to watch Javale McGee smash on his former team, For Klay Thompson and LeBron to exchange a friendly conversation that leads to rumors of his impending free agency. No one is better at creating controversy than LeBron James, and on the biggest stage of the year, so far, something is going to happen. That alone makes this game the most exciting one of the Christmas Day slate.

Whew, being the judgmental aunt was harder than I thought it would be. All in all, there are factors that makes every single one of these games exciting. Kudos got out to the association for killing the schedule, once again. The rule is making current and interesting match ups, something that the NFL's holiday schedule does not allow for, or it is something they do not care to address. Keep your Thanksgiving tackleball, I will take Christmas Day basketball 100 times out of 100.

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

One more win and they're in. Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

As they were at the start of the 60 game season, the Astros are a virtual lock to make the expanded postseason field. Unexpectedly, the only reason the Astros have a shot in October is because the field is expanded. Still, all they need is one win in three shots at the Rangers or one Angels loss as they play three at the Dodgers and the Astros are in and an absolute threat to win another American League pennant. This Astros squad is an average squad. The losses of Gerrit Cole, Justin Verlander, and Yordan Alvarez combined with all their key hitters dropping off from 2019 make Astros' mediocrity a simple fact of life. A mediocre but potent team can beat any better team in a best of three, best of five, or best of seven series. Heck, a bad team can beat a great team two out of three. The format is such that the Astros will be the sixth seed among the eight AL playoff teams, so they will be the road team in each game of a best of three series at the number three seed. They could be headed to Oakland, Minnesota, or Chicago.

A couple of peripheral bummers of the Astros to this point disappointing 2020…

One, Justin Verlander's dream of 300 career wins pretty much died with the ulna collateral ligament in his right arm. Verlander's one win this year combined with zero next year will have him at 226 career wins when he turns 39 in February of 2022. That Verlander can then average 15 wins per season through age 43 isn't utterly impossible but is extremely unlikely. While cementing his Hall of Fame credentials, Verlander didn't average 15 wins per season from 2015 through '19.

Two, Jose Altuve's collision course with the 3000 hit club has hit a major detour. I'm not declaring Altuve washed up, though only apologists and homers would describe his short season performance as better than feeble. He's been among the worst regulars in all of Major League Baseball this season. Altuve's best baseball is behind him. If he can get back to 2018 or 2019 Altuve that's plenty good, though not close to 2016 and 2017 Altuve. Well, Altuve failed to reach 170 hits in either 2018 or '19. Giving him 170 hits per season for each of the next eight seasons (bet the under), Altuve would be within about 30 hits of 3000 when approaching his 39th birthday at the start of the 2029 season. Craig Biggio remained a lineup regular at age 40 only so he could get to 3000.

Texans face another tough test against Steelers

It's no shocking upset if they win but the Texans probably come home from Pittsburgh Sunday night with an 0-3 record. As only four point underdogs they should have a much better shot than they did against the Chiefs and Ravens. Not that that is saying much. The Texans were pretty pitifully overmatched by the Chiefs and Ravens, the faint silver lining is that they're the two best teams in the AFC. It's possible the Steelers are the third best team (I'll take the Bills but it's possible). So even at 0-3 the Texans' season wouldn't be dead. Just two years ago they opened 0-3 before ripping off nine straight wins and finishing 11-5. But just as the 2018 Texans wound up, this season's team would be a total pretender.

All five starters back on the offensive line was supposed to be a boon to the Texans' offense. The pass protection has been porous and now has to deal with a top tier pass rushing Steeler defense. Deshaun Watson has been his usual terrifically elusive self, but merely okay throwing the ball. Offensively, 38-year-old Ben Roethlisberger has looked all right at quarterback after missing all but the opener last season with a blown out throwing elbow. Big Ben is not close to the mobility threat Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson are, but the Texan D which has thus far been sieve-like against running backs will see two backs each over five yards per carry thus far in James Conner and Benny Snell.

At least the Texans will have no crowd noise to deal with at Heinz Field. The Steelers are 2-0 but have only beaten the awful Giants and the injury-battered Broncos.

Buzzer Beaters:

1. One game is one game but Bregman, Altuve, and Springer all homering Thursday night had to create some warm feelings for any Astros fan.

2. The Lakers-Nuggets series has been outstanding. Number of Rockets you think are watching any of it: over/under 2 1/2.

3. Greatest Bennys: Bronze-the one with the Jets Silver-Jack Gold-Goodman

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome