The Christmas schedule is set in the NBA, and all five matches are packed with star power.
Zion Williamson makes his debut on Christmas Day as the New Orleans Pelicans face defending champion Eastern the Miami Heat.
Stephen Curry, who is back from his broken left hand, leads the Golden State Warriors against two-time defending champions Giannis Antitkunembo and the Milwaukee Bucks.
Long-awaited Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving returns to Boston after missing out on both matches last season due to injury – and will be by Kevin Durant in good health.
Two encounters in Los Angeles top the evenings list, with LeBron James and defending champion Los Angeles Lakers hosting League MVP nominee Luca Dunsic, Dallas Mavericks and Kohi Leonard, and Paul George and the Los Angeles Clippers met Nicola Jukic, Jamal Murray and the Denver Nuggets after the Clippers. Shock breakdown breakdown against Denver in the Florida bubble.
Here’s what you need to know about the five-game feast on ESPN, ABC, and the ESPN app.
After missing the Pelicans’ Christmas Day showdown last season, Zion Williamson will have his chance at the first stage of the league. Carmen Mandato / Getty Images
Once again, the NBA displays Zion Williamson in one of its facades.
His first summer league match in July 2019 attracted a group of fans around the building, even though Williamson only played eight minutes. The league tried to spotlight Williamson last season on Opening Night and Christmas Day, but remained on the sidelines until January due to an injury he suffered in the pre-season. The swans were also picked to start the bubble on national television, but again, Williamson was only able to play 15 minutes.
Finally, Williamson gets his chance to be a headliner on high-profile NBA Day alongside New Deal star Brandon Ingram.
From the Miami side, beloved bubblegum dear and eastern convention-winning coffee take center stage after signing Pam Adebayo on the Maximum Level Extension. The Heat also added Moe Harkless and Avery Bradley and coined Memphis’ Precious Achiuwa.
And of course, everyone can have a dose of Jimmy Butler on Christmas Day.
The Warriors-Bucks match features back-to-back MVP award-winning stars Giannis Antetokounmpo and Stephen Curry. Noah Graham / Getty Images
Christmas bells. Christmas bells. Giannis runs the pass. Oh, what’s fun watching Steve Curry rain.
This Bucks-Warriors showdown has a classic holiday style. Both teams have something to prove after disappointing endings to the 2019-20 season. Golden State missed the post-season period for the first time since 2011-12, and Bucks endured a disappointing exit from the second round. Both groups will be looking to quickly find chemistry with new formations.
Milwaukee should be working on several new pieces around Antetokounmpo, including Jrue Holiday, Torrey Craig, Bryn Forbes, DJ Augustin, and Bobby Portis.
Bucks goalkeeper Pat Connaughton said of Holiday, “I’m not sure there’s an underrated man in the NBA.” “I think if you pair it up with Khris [Middleton] Giannis, that’s a big problem, and I’m not sure a lot of people have really made the size of this deal clear, but that’s kind of like we like. “
For Golden State, the impact of losing Clay Thompson for the second season in a row after he rips his Achilles will be big, but the current squad is healthy from Carrie and Diamond Green with support from Andrew Wiggins, second-placed overall James Wiseman and the acquisition of the winger. Kelly Ober Jr.
Keri Irving won’t have to wait long into the season to face his former team, and he will have a healthy Kevin Durant by his side at TD Garden. Nathaniel S Butler / NBAE via Getty Images
Just two years ago, Irving stood inside Boston’s TD Garden and announced that he hoped to stay with the franchise for years. He is gone after that season. Now, he’s back at the long-awaited building for the Christmas Day duel, and after missing out on both matches in Boston last season with injury, he’s never again going to have to deal with booing from fans.
This game also provides a national stage for an Irving-Kevin Durant match against a talented team from the Celtics believed they could take on the East. Young Celtics stars Jason Tatum and Jailyn Brown look forward to showing how their games have evolved since Irving left Brooklyn. Regardless of the feelings surrounding Irving’s return, this will be an early opportunity to see if Durant looks like his old self against a hungry young team. He hasn’t played since he tore an Achilles tendon in match five of the 2019 Finals.
If the dynamic All-Star duo pass this early Christmas test, it could provide a warning to the rest of the league about how talented the Nets are when their stars are on the ground and creating opportunities for their mates.
LeBron James vs Luca Doncic is one of the most interesting singles matches on Christmas Day. Gary A. Vasquez / USA Today Sports
In November 2018, Luca Dunsic shyly stayed outside the Lakers’ locker room at Staples Center so that a security guard could hand him a certified uniform from his childhood hero, LeBron James. Now, Doncic will try to lose James on Christmas Day.
Pitting the NBA Mavericks against defending champion Lakers on marquee day in the league calendar speaks to Doncic’s rapid rise. As compelling as it would be to see the Lakers participate in the final rematch with the Heat, confront former champion Warriors, or add another chapter to the Lakers Clippers’ growing plot, the NBA has always been about its star system, and there is nothing in today’s game that could rival LeBron vs. Luca.
In Dunsic, Dallas has a superstar many around the league expect to win the best players and multiple rings. In James, the Lakers have someone helping restore the franchise to its former glory while striving to add more best players and rings to his résumé (he has four of each).
NBA’s pick for this Christmas Day pairing also shows the pivotal place the league finds itself in. James is the face of it, but he’s almost 36 years old and entering his 18th season, and his contemporaries have retired or turned role players. Half-generation stars behind them are out of injury (Cary, Durant and Irving), yet to win the championships to verify their standing (Antitokounmo, James Harden, Damian Lillard, Russell Westbrook, Joel Embiid, Butler) or have no charisma or interest in emulating James’s stellar state (Koohey) Leonard, Anthony Davis).
Add in the injury hassles that Zion Williamson faced in the junior season, and the path was cleared for 21-year-old Doncic to carry the torch for years the way James had relied on from a young age.
– Dave McMenamen
Paul George and the Clippers get an early chance to knock out some of the game’s demons against the Nuggets. Garrett Ellwood / NBAE via Getty Images
When we last saw the clippers, Paul George fired a 3 corner kick from the side of the back plate.
This cemented the enduring symbol of the Clippers’ embarrassing 3-1 collapse in the second round of qualifiers. Just over three months later, the Clippers face the Nuggets again, and Nikola Jukic will try again to play the spoiler.
Much has changed since the two teams faced each other. In Los Angeles, head coach Doc Rivers and Montrezel Prize-winning sixth man Harel are gone. The Clippers relies on new coach Tai Lo and the revamped crew to open up harmony. Also, they need a free agent who hires Serge Ibaka to play a better defense against Jockic than Harel did.
Former JaMychal Green Clipper will be alongside Nuggets after signing with Denver at Free Agency and taking a hit on the Clippers’ rotation. Nuggets will need Green to help recoup the loss of Jerami Grant, who is caught with Detroit Pistons after his post-season breakout.
However, this emerging rivalry should be limited to the main characters, as it did in the qualifiers. Jamal Murray and Jokic will play on the Christmas stage in the NBA, and are looking to take the next step after they reach the Western Conference Finals in the bubble. They hope to show the national audience that they are the Lakers’ main competitors in the Western Conference. Leonard and George will be looking to re-establish the Clippers as title contenders and attempt to erase memories of their meltdown.
– Om Yongmisuk
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