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Nic Claxton calls out Giannis Antetokounmpo after Nets impressive win

The NBA’s Christmas Day five-game schedule feels a lot like the season itself. When we first saw the roster, when the schedule came out, we were all in, but as the season came to an end and the injuries hit, the excitement died down a bit.

The star power is still there – LeBron James, James Harden, Joel Embiid, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Luka Doncic and the list goes on – but the matchups aren’t quite as intriguing. Let’s rank the NBA’s five-game list from “I should take this time to talk to Uncle Ed and get it over with” to “Turn off the NFL game, it’s NBA time.” . (All five games will be shown on both ESPN and ABC, and all times listed here are Eastern.)

5) Memphis Grizzlies at the Golden State Warriors (8 p.m.)

This might have been the best game of the day — the Warriors eliminated the Grizzlies last season in a trashy playoff series that the Warriors would later privately admit was the toughest matchup of their title run. Memphis believes it could have won that streak had it not been for Ja Morant’s accidental injury, and as soon as the streak ended, Morant claimed a Christmas Day rematch. He got his wish.

Then Stephen Curry injured his shoulder. He’s out and the shine comes from this game as the Warriors – who stumbled this season when Curry was healthy and playing at the MVP level, maybe Draymond Green punching Jordan Poole in the face has something to do with it – 1-3 as he retired at this stretch with a top 10 attack and the worst defense in the league (which shows effort and focus). Poole will try, but he’s not a curry.

Tune in to see Ja Morant, the most exciting and entertaining player in the game today. Tune in to watch the Grizzlies’ defense, which has been the best in the league since Jaren Jackson Jr.’s return from injury (102.1 net defensive rating in last 10 games), keeps teams glued to the halfcourt . But just ask the Bucks, this game could be a blowout, and if you want to switch to Buccaneers vs. Cardinals on NBC, we won’t blame you.

4) Los Angeles Lakers at Dallas Mavericks (2 p.m.)

Another game interrupted by injuries. It might have been mined beforehand, with the Lakers stumbling early and being unassuming, but they’ve had their moments thanks to Anthony Davis playing back at center and at an All-NBA, maybe MVP-electoral level. Now Davis is out with a foot injury and the Lakers are 1-3 without him, losing their shoes and their last game to the lowly Hornets. Without Davis, coach Darvin Ham has had to lean into smaller lineups to score goals, but that hurts an already overwhelming defense.

LeBron James vs. Luka Doncic will always provide some spark and you should tune in to see Luka at MVP level. The Mavericks will also unveil their Dirk Nowitzki statue outside of the stadium ahead of the game, which will be well worth seeing. But the trade speculation surrounding these teams could be more interesting than the game on the pitch itself.

3) Phoenix Suns at Denver Nuggets (10:30 p.m.)

The NBA’s nightcap game will be worth staying up for – these are two of the top four teams in a wide-open West, and Nikola Jokic is always worth watching.

The real question as to how watchable this will be is: will Devin Booker play? He has missed the last three Suns games with a groin injury. He’s in control of the Suns’ offense this season and has had some monster nights, and this could be another one where he goes up against a Nuggets team that seems to have a take-or-leave relationship with defense ( 24th in the league). . The Suns are already without Cameron Johnson and Jae Crowder, which doesn’t help their defense against a deep Nuggets roster. Tune in to see Jokic, plus Michael Porter Jr. is due back and Aaron Gordon has been having a hot streak lately. Denver isn’t at the top of the West by accident.

2) Philadelphia 76ers at the New York Knicks (noon)

Before New York stumbled on its final pairs, it had racked up eight straight wins and rocketed up the league lead in the East thanks to Tom Thibodeau’s team coming by on defense. When Thibs finally leaned against the non-tradable Quentin Grimes and gave bench minutes to Miles McBride (and sadly, understandably not to Derrick Rose), this team began to coalesce. New York has the second-best defense in the NBA in its last 10 games, a 104.1 defensive rating.

But can the Knicks put the brakes on Joel Embiid?

Embiid leads the NBA with 33 points per game on 52.8% shooting, he can shoot the three but is primarily a beast in and around the paint and the Knicks don’t have anyone who is a good physical match for him. Throw in the fact that James Harden is getting his legs under him — 20 points, 21 assists, 11 boards against a full-strength Clippers team on Friday — and the 76ers are a tough team to stop.

Philadelphia has won seven straight seasons, but how will it handle the holiday energy at Madison Square Garden and a Knicks team Jalen Brunson believes in? Christmas Day in the garden leads to special moments. Perhaps the Knicks will get another 44-point RJ Barrett game like they did against the Bulls on Friday (in a loss that left New York falling apart in the final minutes). This is an Eastern Conference rivalry with both teams playing well and it should be a perfect start to your Christmas sports day.

1) Milwaukee Bucks at Boston Celtics (5 p.m.)

The NBA’s top two teams this season go clean and away against each other. That’s what the NBA does best at Christmas. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown were the best duo in the NBA this season, with Tatum playing at the MVP level. Giannis Antetokounmpo also plays like an MVP. Khris Middleton may be out (right knee) but both teams have plenty of good players who have appeared on the biggest stages – Jrue Holiday, Marcus Smart, Brook Lopez (looks like a DPOY candidate), Al Horford and the list goes on and further.

Also, nothing breeds animosity and rivalry in the NBA like familiarity, and this will mark the 15th meeting between these teams in the past two years. The Celtics eliminated the Bucks in an epic second-round series in the final playoffs.

Both teams have been a little flat lately and have had some mid-season lulls, but both teams will be ready for this one. This is the game of the day – great teams looking to mark each other mid-season. You have to see this game. If that means going to the other room to get away from your family, they will understand.

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