Happy Holidays everyone! I hope you and your families are having a wonderful day wherever you are…
The NBA continues its grand tradition of doing Christmas Day right with a packed schedule of fantastic games from noon until well after midnight on the East Coast. Ok, they aren’t all great games. Nothing about the New York Knicks is too terribly pleasant to watch, but the matinee game does at least afford a rare national television appearance for John Wall and the young Wizards. A win against the Knicks doesn’t exactly prove their championship mettle, but they are a legit Eastern Conference contender so get a good look at them now.
The rest of the day has plenty of presents; from the interesting return to Miami for King James, the intense rivalry between the Warriors and Clippers, and of course, the annual helping of Kobe (excuse the rest of the Lakers, just enjoy one more holiday of Kobe fun)
What could make Christmas better than a few winners under the tree? So, lets dive in to today’s free pick as well as a little bonus stocking stuffer.
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Today’s Free Picks:
Cleveland Cavaliers -5.5 at Miami Heat
This one probably means a lot more to Miami fans than it does to just about everyone else. Unlike when the King left these two respective teams in different order, this move has been hailed largely as a happy one and one met with heroic response. From everyone except the jilted lover that is South Beach hoops fans. It will be an interesting mix of appreciation, gratitude and scorn today from the Heat fans.
But beyond the emotion, the Cavaliers are a much better basketball team at this point. They’ve won four of their last five including a nice win over Memphis and are starting to look like a team that will be fine come playoff time. Meanwhile, things are bad in Miami. Chris Bosh is hurt. Josh McRoberts is out for the season and the Heat have lost five of seven games and a on the heels of a loss to the Philadelphia 76’ers. That’s a tough one to stomach if you have playoff aspirations and makes the return of LeBron all the more bitter today. Remember what we had just a few months ago? Yeah, that’s gone.
Look for Cleveland to have LeBron’s back today and to bring a huge defensive effort in support of their captain and leader. I like Cleveland to quiet an early raucous crowd and to handle their business.
Golden State Warriors at Los Angeles Clippers -1.5
This has become the best rivalry in the NBA over the past few seasons, and it will be fun to close the marathon of hoops with two elite teams that just plain dislike each other. They’ve had their share of altercations and dust-ups, and while I don’t expect anything to get out of hand on Christmas, I do expect a very physical and hard-fought game. These teams have split the last ten games 5-5 with almost perfect alternating success. The home team has won eight of ten, but each team did win a game on the road in last year’s postseason matchup.
This season, the road has been a friendly place for the Warriors. They are a dazzling 13-3 away from home, even after Tuesday’s head-scratching loss to the Lakers. Expect that to be fuel as a wake-up call for the league most efficient defense and look for a much better effort tonight. The return of David Lee gives them another athletic big boss to contend with Blake Griffin, so his return is just in time.
Both of these teams are loaded with talent, and regardless of the outcome, watching Chris Paul and Steph Curry go head-to-head for four quarters is a fantastic Christmas present. But I am going to go with a mild upset today and back the Warriors. I’m going to contend that Laker game was a little looking past to tonight’s contest. Let’s hope the extra focus was worth it…