The lockout is over, and I can’t think of a much better Christmas present than a full slate of five dynamite NBA matchups under the tree. Nearly every legitimate contender for the NBA Championship will get their turn on national television Sunday, so let’s dig into a couple of nice lines to deliver a few winners as late holiday presents.
Boston Celtics @ New York Knicks -3.5 (Noon EST on TNT)
The Knicks made major splashes last season with the additions of Amare’ Stoudamire and Carmelo Anthony and went from “playoff longshots” to “nationally relevant” overnight. Unfortunately, they still didn’t go to “win a single game in the playoffs” team; they were swept pretty routinely by the veteran and savvy Boston Celtics. This offseason, the Knicks didn’t make as flashy an addition, but they may have just found the piece they were missing in Tyson Chandler.
It’s not much of a secret that Amare’ and ‘Melo’s talents lie primarily on the offensive side of the floor. Enter Chandler, a tall, shot-blocking, rebounding presence into the fold. It instantly takes the Knicks from “fun team to watch” into legitimate challengers to the Bulls and Heat for Eastern Conference supremacy. It gives them a bruising defensive presence to balance their already formidable offense.
For Boston, this 66-game sprint is going to be an interesting challenge for aging veteran legs. KG and Ray Allen have battled numerous injuries the past few seasons, and Paul Pierce has more than a few miles on his odometer. Losing Jeff Green for the season to a heart condition was an enormous blow. Granted, Green struggled to contribute after his late-season deal from Oklahoma City, but with an offseason under his belt and a little more familiarity in new system, his young legs would have been enormous for the Celtics.
In the NBA, I always lean towards the home team if both teams are fresh and rested. It doesn’t get much more rested than Game One in your home gym – plus Christmas Day in the Mecca of Hoops? You gotta like the Knickerbocker’s chances.
Los Angeles Clippers -5 @ Golden State Warriors (10:30 pm EST – ESPN)
I’m not trying to be the latest passenger on the burgeoning Clipper bandwagon, but it is hard to NOT be excited to see this team take the floor Christmas night. The addition of Chris Paul forming a tandem with Blake Griffin immediately elevates the Clippers to a sure-fire playoff team and an outside contender for the Western Conference championship.
The Warriors will likely be without (or at least get limited action from) starting PG Steph Curry who twisted his ankle in the last preseason game on a Jimmer Fredette crossover. Monte Ellis can slide to the point if needed, but he is a shoot-first guard to say the least. The offense will not flow nearly as smoothly through Ellis’s hands. There is also the distraction of the sexual harassment suit filed against him several days ago…
The Clippers will be jazzed to show the nation they are for real. The giddiness in Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan is infectious. It may be Christmas night, but these two know they got their present past week; lobs from Chris Paul for the long foreseeable future.
I like the Clips to go on the road and take the first step in their journey of challenging the Lakers for the hearts of Los Angeles.