In typical Adrian Wojnarowski, the ESPN NBA Senior Insider dropped a “Woj Bomb” on Tuesday of the league’s tentative Christmas Day schedule. Most years, Christmas falls about a month into the NBA season. However, like any sport, the NBA has been greatly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. They were able to pull off the Orlando bubble in flawless fashion, but it came with the season beginning three days before Christmas. The season will be young, storylines will run wild, and expectations will be high.
That being said, let’s rank the 2021 NBA Christmas Day schedule…
5. Golden State Warriors @ Milwaukee Bucks (2:30pm)
Three weeks ago, on paper, this game appeared to be between two championship contenders. Now, many wonder where the Golden State Warriors stand. Already without five-time all-star Klay Thompson as he suffered a torn achillies, the Warriors will still be finding their identity. Draymond Green was not the same player last season, and Andrew Wiggins was not exactly a game-changer last season. And given a rather thin bench, who knows how rookie center James Weisman will do potentially being thrown straight into the starting lineup. Nevertheless, the Warriors will be getting Stephen Curry back fully healthy, and he is a two-time MVP after all.
So is Milwaukee Bucks’ superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo. The “Greek Freak” got the revamped squad he wanted, as the Bucks look to convince him to stay long-term beyond 2021. Joining him is Jrue Holiday, acquired from the New Orleans Pelicans. Holiday offers a starting point guard and elite defender. The Bucks also reloaded on the bench, with Bobby Portis, D.J. Augustin, amongst others. But was it enough for the Bucks’ to get over the hump?
Well, Christmas afternoon both teams look to answer these questions.
4. New Orleans Pelicans @ Miami Heat (12:00pm)
After losing in the Finals just over two months ago, the Miami Heat are back and managed to maintain the same core. Jimmy Butler leads a young squad with backcourt running mate Goran Dragic, who returned on a two-year deal. Their high-flying offense even added guard Avery Bradley to join Tyler Herro, Kendrick Nunn, and many more off the bench. And of course, opponents cannot forget Bam Adebayo, who signed a max-extension in the off-season. The Heat are ready to show their dominant play was not just a bubble fluke.
As for the Pelicans, they have some firepower of their own as they look to take the next step towards playoff contention. The NBA gets Zion Williamson in the spotlight, as this game will be an early-season test to see what exactly the Pelicans can do. Brandon Ingram, coming off of a breakout season, signed a max-deal in the off-season. Lonzo Ball works the backcourt with Eric Bledsoe and Williamson is joined down low by Steven Adams. Just will it be enough to slow down the Heat’s offense?
3. Los Angeles Clippers @ Denver Nuggets (10:30pm)
On the morning of September 10th, it appeared the Los Angeles Clippers were well on their way to the Western Conference Finals. That was until Jamal Murray and the Denver Nuggets had yet another miraculous playoff series comeback from being down 3-1. This was only two months ago, as the memory of their blown lead will still be fresh in the Clippers’ minds.
The Clippers made a handful of changes, including replacing head coach Doc Rivers with Tyron Lue. Adding Serge Ibaka, Nicolas Batum, and Luke Kennard will certainly help make up for the departures of Montrezl Harrell and JaMychal Green. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George want a championship, and the Clippers are going to be hungry given both can enter free agency following this season.
As for the Nuggets, they look to prove that their performance in the bubble was legit. Returning their entire core plus stealing JaMychal Green from the Clippers, this is a young and feisty team. And look out for Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic to make their case for one of the league’s best duos. Without a doubt, this game is worth staying up for.
2. Dallas Mavericks @ Los Angeles Lakers (8:00pm)
Had this been a normal season, chances are this would be the top Christmas Day game. Somehow coming off of a championship season, the Los Angeles Lakers are somehow even better. Of course, the duo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis are back, and they have new friends coming for the ride. The team acquired Dennis Schroder, Marc Gasol, Wesley Matthews, and stole Montrezl Harrell from the Clippers. The odds-on favorite to win it all again according to Vegas Insider, this game will pin James and company against a young and hungry Dallas Mavericks team.
The Mavericks may not be more than a playoff contender at the moment but could develop into something special. Led by MVP candidate Luka Dončić, the team had a quieter off-season than expected, though return their core. Kristaps Porzingis will hopefully be back healthy with Tim Hardaway Jr. and Maxi Kleber to round out the starting lineup. That is also with the addition of Josh Richardson on the wing. And of course, their bench includes none other than the beloved Boban Marjanovic
This is a must-watch game featuring multiple MVP candidates. How could America not be excited to watch this one?
1. Brooklyn Nets @ Boston Celtics (5:00pm)
The bottom line is that out of all five games, Brooklyn Nets vs Boston Celtics ranks at the top because of the storylines that come with it. First, Kevin Durant will be playing one of his first games since his torn achillies in the 2019 NBA Finals. He against Jayson Tatum makes for a battle between two of the best shooters in the entire league. Plus, Tatum will be getting an opportunity to make an MVP-type statement.
For Kyrie Irving, he will also be playing in his first game at TD Garden since leaving in 2020 during free agency. Both teams are made up of excellent offense and great depth. The Nets, having not made a move to acquire an established third star, have a core of Caris LeVert, Spencer Dinwiddie, Joe Harris, and many more complementing Durant and Irving.
As for Boston, they will be without star Kemba Walker to start the season due to a knee injury. Thus, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, Daniel Theis will need to hold down the fort while Walker’s out. Luckily, signing Jeff Teague and Tristian Thompson will help add even more talent to a Boston team coming off of back-to-back East Conference Finals losses.
Between the storylines, rivalry, and talent on the court, Nets vs Celtics is the must-watch game of the NBA Christmas Day schedule.