As most all of you out there gather with loved ones to celebrate the birth of Our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus – and open presents and eat food – you’ll find as always that there’s really not a whole lot of sports on. You may also find some great old Big East Men’s College Basketball action on the home of the Big East, Fox Sports 1 (the 1 for Fun). If it’s live College Basketball you’re seeking, tune in to the networks of ESPN (ESPNU, ESPN2 and ESPN3) as the Diamond Head Classic on the campus of the University of Hawaii in Honolulu, finishes strong capped off by 14 Iowa State vs. Boise State at 8:30 PM ET/5:30 PM PT on ESPN2. But if it’s live professional sports you desire, The Networks of ESPN and ABC present us (pun intended) with five games on Christmas Day. This year’s slate showcases two teams whose star players – some of the best in the league – are both injured, both of the struggling New York teams, one of the best shooting backcourts you’ll ever see, and two of the best teams in the NBA. Here’s everything you need to know about the NBA on Christmas Day:
Chicago Bulls (10-16, 3-11 Away) at Brooklyn Nets (9-18, 5-8 Home) on ESPN (Ryan Ruocco, Doris Burke, Chris Broussard)
Barclays Center – Brooklyn, NY – Noon ET/9 AM PT
What you need to know: Derrick Rose is hurt, but the Nets are worse than their 9-18 record would indicate. I know, that may not sound likely, but as Kevin Garnett recently said “I don’t think we have an identity. I don’t know who we are.” In case you didn’t know, that’s bad, whether it’s through 1 game, 27 games or 50 games, that’s bad. The Nets are one of the worst teams in the league in rebounding and team defense, while the Bulls are one of the best rebounding teams in the league and also among the best in fewest points allowed (93.3 per game). Brook Lopez is now out for the season for the Nets, while the Bulls will be without Luol Deng (Sore Left Achilles) and Derrick Rose, while Jimmy Butler and Kirk Hinrich will be game-time decisions.
Oklahoma City Thunder (22-5, 9-4 Away) at New York Knicks (9-18, 4-10 Home) on ABC (Mike Breen, Hubie Brown, Lisa Salters)
Madison Square Garden – New York, NY – 2:30 PM ET/11:30 AM PT
What you need to know: The Thunder again look like they may be the favorites in the Western Conference, led by Kevin Durant (28.1 ppg, 49 % fg pct, 8.1 rpg, 4.7 apg) and a healthy Russell Westbrook (21.6 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 6.8 apg). As a team, the Thunder lead the NBA in rebounds per game (47.4) and rank 3rd in points per game (105.7). As for the Knicks, to say they’ve struggled so far is an understatement. At one point, New York had lost nine in a row and 10 of 11. Things haven’t been quite as bad lately, or at least they hadn’t been until Monday’s matchup with the Magic. The Knickerbockers came away with the win but saw both Carmelo Anthony and Raymond Felton go down. Melo will be a game-time decision while Felton has already been ruled out, joining Kenyon Martin as inactive for this game. One bright spot for the Knicks has been Tim Hardaway Jr, the rookie out of the University of Michigan, who has put up 8.3 points per game in 17.9 minutes off the bench.
Miami Heat (21-6, 7-4 Away) at Los Angeles Lakers (13-15, 7-6 Home) on ABC (Mike Tirico,, Jeff Van Gundy, Heather Cox)
Staples Center – Los Angeles, CA – 5 PM ET/2 PM PT
What you need to know: Just a couple of years ago, this would have been a battle of two of the best teams in the league. Now? Woof. The Lakers have shown some flashes of being a talented and entertaining basketball team, but at the end of the day they’re without Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant, meaning that in their matchup Monday against the Suns, the Lake Show sent out a Starting Five of Jodie Meeks, Wesley Johnson, Xavier Henry, Shawne Williams and Pau Gasol. The “Showtime” Lakers these are not. Nick Young has been a bright spot for the Lakers, averaging 15.6 points per game, 4 points higher than his career average of 11.6. The Heat are, well, the Heat. This isn’t the playoffs, so as long as things don’t go too haywire, they’ll be fine. Only twice this season have the Heat lost consecutive games and they enter Wednesday on a five game winning streak. We won’t bore you with all of LeBron’s stats, but we will tell you that he could very well end up shooting 60 percent from the field and 40 percent from 3 point range this season, something that has never been done before. Right now, he’s at 59.9% and 41.7% respectively. One of the non-Big Three bright spots for the Heat this season has been Michael Beasley. The sixth year man out of Kansas State and Frederick, MD is averaging 11.3 ppg, 52.6 pct from 3 point range and 4.2 rpg in 17.8 minutes per game.
Houston Rockets (18-11, 7-7 Away) at San Antonio Spurs (22-6, 10-3 Home) on ESPN (Mark Jones, George Karl, Israel Gutierrez)
AT&T Center – San Antonio, TX – 8 PM ET/5 PM PT
What you need to know: After starting the season 4-3, the Rockets started clicking in the middle of November, winning five straight and eight of nine. They’ve come back down to earth a bit, but still find themselves 2nd in the Southwest Division and 6th in the Western Conference. James Harden and Dwight Howard have – as expected – led the way for the Rockets, with Harden’s 23.9 ppg tied for 5th in the NBA and Howard’s 13.3 rebounds per game ranking 2nd in the league. The Spurs are up to their old tricks, leading the Southwest Division and only one game back in the Western Conference. San Antonio ranks 2nd in the NBA in assists per game with 24.9, led by Tony Parker. The 31-year old is again pacing the team with 18.1 ppg and 6.2 rpg. Oh, and Tim Duncan is ageless, putting up 13.9 ppg and 9.2 rpg in his age 37 season.
Los Angeles Clippers (20-9, 8-7 Away) at Golden State Warriors (16-13, 9-4 Home) on ESPN (Dave Pasch, Jon Barry, J.A. Adande)
Oracle Arena – Oakland, CA – 10:30 PM ET/7:30 PM PT
What you need to know: Doc Rivers is at the helm of the Los Angeles Clippers this season, and he’s had to do some work to get this team working better. Entering Christmas Day though, Doc has the Clips on a five game winning streak and having won seven of their last eight. Certainly the better of the teams in LA, the Clippers are 5th in the NBA in points per game at 105.1, led by four players averaging more than 15 ppg (in order – Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, Jamal Crawford, J.J. Redick). Griffin and Paul are both averaging a double-double a game, with Blake adding 10.5 boards per game and CP3 adding 11.3 assists per game. The Warriors – as you may have heard by now – have one of the best shooting backcourts we’ve seen in many a year. Stephen Curry – the 25-year old out of Davidson – is averaging just shy of 24 points per game while shooting 45.6% from the field and 41.8% from 3-point range while adding 9.2 assists per game. His backcourt mate is Klay Thompson, son of a former NBA great named Mychal, is averaging 19.5 points per game and shooting 44.9% from the field and 42.5% from 3-point range.
From all (Joe and myself) to you and yours, wherever you may be, we wish you a Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year. May your holidays be filled with valuable time with loved ones, great food, great times, and great sports.
Editor’s note: While we pride ourselves on our coverage of all things sports related here at UpperDeckChatter, if you’re looking for more on the NBA, you really can’t do better than The Pass. We’ll admit to a little bias here; The Pass is operated by our good friend Brad Zak. But bias aside, Brad covers the NBA with more insight and humor than almost anyone you can find. Give The Pass a read, why don’t you.