As the fruitful 2018 skids to a close and a reinvigorating 2019 bleeds into the upcoming horizon, basketball fans are looking forward to some of the marquee matchups of the 2018-19 NBA season, which showcase a few of the most anticipated games of the season. The culmination of the Christmas season along with the continuous Christmas games makes for a festive occasion. With the 25th slowly creeping up, here is the schedule of the long-awaited nationally televised Christmas day games.
Milwaukee Bucks (21-9) at New York Knicks (9-24), 9:00 AM PT:
The first of the Christmas games features a red-hot Milwaukee Bucks team, led by their stalwart superstar in Giannis Antetokounmpo, and a reeling New York Knicks team, given a chance on Christmas day to steady their footing at home. As always, Antetokounmpo relishes playing in the Knicks’ stadium, Madison Square Garden, but this matchup is more personal than usual. Earlier in the season, on December 1, Hezonja stared down the 6’11” Antetokounmpo after dunking the ball and stepped over him in a gesture of dominance. When asked about the play after the game, Antetokounmpo told Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News that he would “punch him in the [groin] next time”. With the addition of a tasty twist to the foremost Christmas game, the day is guaranteed to start off strong.
Oklahoma City Thunder (20-10) at Houston Rockets (16-15), 12:00 PM PT:
Directly after the Bucks and Knicks game is one of the biggest rivalries of the past few years between the Thunder and Rockets. The rivalry started nearly six years ago when the Thunder forwent paying James Harden a max contract and dealt him to the Rockets, igniting a flame between the teams that would only grow stronger through the individual accomplishments of both Westbrook and Harden, now both MVPs. There’s always something to look forward to when these two teams face each other.
Philadelphia 76ers (21-12) at Boston Celtics (18-12), 2:30 PM PT:
Next is the matchup between two of the budding young teams in the 76ers and Celtics. The teams opened the 2018-19 NBA season against each other, which resulted in a win for the Celts. However, the 76ers recently acquired All-Star shooting guard Jimmy Butler from the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Celtics’ All-Star center in Al Horford is nursing a knee injury, which makes the game all the more anticipated. With Joel Embiid of the Sixers and Kyrie Irving of the Celts both playing at a stellar level, we’re looking forward to the rematch of opening night.
Los Angeles Lakers (18-13) at Golden State Warriors (21-11), 5:00 PM PT:
Arguably the most anticipated matchup of the season, let alone Christmas Day, the matchup finds the two-time NBA champs in the Golden State Warriors facing the Los Angeles Lakers for the first time this season, along with an old foe: LeBron James, who signed in the City of Angels in the summer. With Brandon Ingram and Rajon Rondo healthy enough to take the floor, the game could be a preview of both the Lakers’ and the Warriors’ postseason performances. A subplot of the game also includes JaVale McGee, whose first matchup against his former team (GSW) after winning two rings with them is something to watch as well.
Portland Trail Blazers (18-13) at Utah Jazz (15-17), 7:30 PM PT:
The final matchup of the Christmas day games pits the Portland Trail Blazers with a fiery Damian Lillard against a stout Utah Jazz team with the reigning Defensive Player the Year in Rudy Gobert. As the two teams have yet to play each other, we will get a preview of the Christmas Day game on December 22, when the two teams face each other in Portland. The dynamic backcourt of Lillard and teammate CJ McCollum can be a formidable one to face, along with a revamped bench and an upcoming center in Zach Collins. For the Jazz, sophomore Donovan Mitchell has been struggling, though Gobert is having a career-best season. Though they are 15-17, the Jazz demonstrated in their game against the Warriors on December 19 that they are still an extremely tough team to beat.
With a day filled with key matchups on Christmas Day, there’s a lot to look forward to. Whether it’s the Knicks and the Bucks and the personal vendetta of Giannis Antetkounmpo or a postseason preview between the Lakers and the Warriors, there’s bound to be a good amount of anticipation as Christmas season comes into full effect.