Christmas has come early for NBA fans - the 2019-20 NBA Christmas Day schedule is now official after numerous reports surfaced in the past weeks.
- Boston Celtics vs. Toronto Raptors - 12 p.m. ET, Scotiabank Arena, Toronto, ON
- Milwaukee Bucks vs. Philadelphia 76ers - 2:30 p.m. ET, Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA
- Houston Rockets vs. Golden State Warriors - 5:30 p.m. ET, Chase Center, San Francisco, CA
- LA Clippers vs. Los Angeles Lakers - 8 p.m. ET, STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA
- New Orleans Pelicans vs. Denver Nuggets - 10:30 p.m. ET, Pepsi Center, Denver, CO
With 10 highly entertaining teams and five great matchups, what is there to be excited for on the biggest day of the NBA regular season?
Scratching the surface of what is going to be a fantastic slate of games, take a look at our Way-Too-Early Christmas Day preview!
Toronto Raptors vs. Boston Celtics
The defending champion Toronto Raptors have been rightfully rewarded for their achievement last season by receiving their first Christmas Day game since 2001.
They'll host the Boston Celtics in front of a rocking Scotiabank Arena crowd and between these two Atlantic Division foes, there is no love-loss. It's a battle every time these teams take the floor and they've split the season series in back-to-back seasons now.
Despite the battles, the Raptors have had the edge at home. Boston has lost eight consecutive games in Toronto dating back to the 2015-16 season. Over the last 10 years, the Celtics are 5-15 in the North.
It will be a treat - or present - to watch these new-look rosters go head-to-head on a big stage. You'll have entertaining matchups like All-Star point guards Kyle Lowry and Kemba Walker, but will also get to watch two of the most promising young stars in the league - Pascal Siakam and Jayson Tatum - try and outplay each other with the whole NBA universe watching.
Philadelphia 76ers vs. Milwaukee Bucks
This matchup acts as a preview between two powerhouses that are preseason favourites to reach the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Milwaukee Bucks are projected for the most wins in the NBA next season (57) after winning 60 games this past season. The Philadelphia 76ers are projected to win 54.5 games, the third-most in the league and second-most in the East.
It'll be a duel between two teams that many were hoping would face off in the Conference Finals this past season after a couple intense regular season battles.
Ben Simmons and Giannis Antetokounmpo went at it, dunking all over each other on ensuing possessions in their final meeting. After exchanging words, it should make for an entertaining rematch in the brightest lights the regular season has to offer.
This time around, the 76ers will have two options to try and contain the reigning league MVP. While star centre Joel Embiid handled the bulk of the load when these teams met last season, Philly also signed veteran centre Al Horford this offseason. No player in the NBA defended Antetokounmpo on more possessions than Horford last season when you take into account both the regular season and playoffs.
The Sixers will be able to throw different looks at Giannis, who will be playing on Christmas for the second time in his young career. On his Christmas Day debut last season, The Greek Freak did not disappoint, giving the New York Knicks 30 points, 14 rebounds, four steals, three assists and two blocks in a Bucks win.
Golden State Warriors vs. Houston Rockets
In what has been one of the best rivalries in the NBA over the past few seasons, the Golden State Warriors will host the Houston Rockets at their brand new arena in downtown San Francisco on Christmas.
Two years in a row the Warriors have ended the Rockets season in the playoffs. It's been two of the best playoff series we've seen over that timespan, but Houston continues to come up short. Now with new contenders emerging in the West after a hectic free agency, these teams have been mentioned less than ever before.
The most intriguing part about the matchup - we'll see a completely different backcourt battle.
The Warriors and Rockets have had two of the best backcourts in the NBA and the intense matchups between Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Chris Paul and James Harden will be engraved in NBA history forever. But this offseason, these rosters have changed quite a bit.
Thompson will likely still be out during the month of December, working on the recovery of his ACL injury he suffered in The Finals. With Kevin Durant heading to the Brooklyn Nets, the Warriors got All-Star point guard D'Angelo Russell in return.
As for Houston, they moved veteran point guard and a number of draft picks to the Thunder in exchange for former MVP Russell Westbrook.
So this Christmas when you sit down to enjoy this game, you'll be watching Curry and Russell go head-to-head with Harden and Westbrook. Familiar and rivaled franchises with new pieces competing in a new arena, just around the time these backcourts should be getting used to playing together.
That sounds like an ideal Christmas Day game to me.
Los Angeles Lakers vs. LA Clippers
This one doesn't need much of a description to be sold - the narrative speaks for itself.
Two teams in Los Angeles that share a building (for now). For the longest time it's been a story of the "Big Brother" Lakers and "Little Brother" Clippers. Now, the star power is equal as we'll get to see LeBron James and Anthony Davis take on Kawhi Leonard and Paul George in the Battle for LA at the STAPLES Center.
This will be the second matchup of the season with these teams facing off on NBA Opening Night. But George received shoulder surgery this offseason and could miss the start of the regular season, so there's a chance this will be the first time these two squads are at full strength.
There should be some added animosity between the two LA franchises - the Lakers were seemingly the favourites to land star forward Leonard, but he elected to sign with the Clippers instead. In doing so, he got the Clippers to bring George in with him via trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder just one summer after PG-13 chose to stay in OKC over signing with the Lakers - the team that everyone assumed the star forward would end up on.
So now you have two star forwards that chose the little brother over the big brother in their home state, and they'll face off against two of the top talents in the NBA under the bright lights of Christmas Day.
Grab your popcorn, this will be a good one.
Denver Nuggets vs. New Orleans Pelicans
This has potential to be one of the most entertaining games of the day.
You have the Denver Nuggets - a team that didn't make any major moves this offseason so they haven't been in the news cycle much, but it's because they didn't have to make any moves. The Nuggets finished with the second-best record in the Western Conference last season with one of the youngest teams in the league. Crafty centre Nikola Jokic is a certified superstar and Jamal Murray - who received a monster extension this offseason - is poised for a breakout season.
Denver will without a doubt pick up right where they left off last season and will once again be competing for a title.
They'll face off against the New Orleans Pelicans, who traded one of the 10 best players in the league and somehow got better from it. You'll see Zion Williamson's Christmas Day debut, but also get to see defensive stud Jrue Holiday, and rising stars like Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram.
These teams have the pieces in place to be contenders in the West for a long time coming. This Christmas Day game acts as a look into what the near-future of the top of the Western Conference is shaping up to be.
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