To say a lot has happened around the NBA since the 2013-14 schedule was unveiled back in August would be an understatement. As of Dec. 16, the Indiana Pacers have held a consistent edge in the Eastern Conference, while the Portland Trail Blazers sit atop the Western Conference, much to the surprise of many who had gotten used to teams like the Miami Heat, New York Knicks, San Antonio Spurs, and Oklahoma City Thunder running the table.
While the Pacers and Trail Blazers won't be in action for the annual slate of NBA Christmas Day 2013 matchups, the 10 teams set to clash still offer fans five intriguing contests to consume this Dec. 25. Read on for the full breakdown and visit the Vivid Seats marketplace for our full selection of NBA tickets available all season long.
Chicago Bulls at Brooklyn Nets | Tickets | Noon ET
The return and subsequent loss of Derrick Rose has arguably been the year's biggest storyline, as the Chicago Bulls have once again been tasked with competing without their star for the remainder of the regular season. Even when Rose was in the lineup, the Bulls (and the rest of the East) have had their work cut out for them in the early going, as aside from the Pacers, Heat, and Atlanta Hawks, the rest of the conference has struggled to remain over .500.
Despite being without their strongest offensive weapon, Chicago has always been able to rely on its defense, and as of Dec. 16, the Bulls still rank third in the NBA in points allowed (92.8). Their opponent and host for Christmas Day, the Brooklyn Nets, are quickly approaching a difficult stretch of games to close out the month, as they'll face the Pacers twice in five days (Dec. 23 and 28) and the Spurs on New Year's Eve, with the Bulls matchup wedged in the middle of the madness.
Oklahoma City Thunder at New York Knicks | Tickets | 2:30 p.m. ET
Like the Bulls and Nets, the New York Knicks also have struggled to build and maintain some momentum thus far. While it has been business as usual for Carmelo Anthony, who leads the team in points (26.0) and rebounds (9.2) per game, he'll need the help of a supporting cast firing on all cylinders in order to effectively challenge Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder.
OKC has been sound on both ends of the floor, ranking first in rebounds (47.3) and third in points per contest (105.7) midway through December. Individually, Durant boasts a league-best 28.5 points per game, while Russell Westbrook has added 21.0 of his own back at full speed for the Thunder.
Miami Heat at Los Angeles Lakers | Tickets | 5 p.m. ET
In perhaps the most anticipated game of the day, the two-time defending champion Miami Heat will pay a visit to the Staples Center to take on a Los Angeles Lakers squad that, save for any mishaps over the next week, will have Kobe Bryant in its lineup. Bryant returned Dec. 8 after missing the first 19 games of the season recovering from the Achilles injury suffered during the playoffs. Through four games, he's averaging 13.5 points and seven assists per game, and will have five more chances to shake the rust off before LeBron James and Co. come to town Dec. 25.
With the Pacers stealing the lion's share of the spotlight in the Eastern Conference thus far, the Heat have quietly been putting together another stellar season, as expected. Ranking in the top 10 in several key categories including assists (4th, 23.7), points allowed (6th, 96.1), and points per game (7th, 103.1), Miami has dropped just six games all season, though four have come on the road, and only once have they lost in consecutive fashion. In 19 LeBron-Kobe clashes dating back to 2004, LeBron owns a 13-6 advantage, including both contests last season.
Houston Rockets at San Antonio Spurs | Tickets | 8 p.m. ET
In the first of two all-Western Conference showdowns, a pair of top-five teams will go head-to-head when the San Antonio Spurs host the Houston Rockets in the first evening matchup of the day. Just a few months removed from slipping into last year's postseason via the No. 8 spot, the Rockets have made the most of the offseason acquisition of Dwight Howard, who has proven quite complementary to returning shooting guard James Harden. The duo is averaging a combined 21 points a game, with Howard pacing the squad on the boards (13.2 rpg) and Harden dishing out 5.8 assists per contest.
The Spurs boast a dynamic duo of their own in seasoned veterans Tony Parker and Tim Duncan, and while their individual numbers may slightly trail that of Howard and Harden, San Antonio has fared better overall thus far and will be looking to avenge a rare home loss suffered at the hands of Houston on Nov. 30. Stats-wise, as of Dec. 16, the Spurs lead the NBA with an average of 25.3 per game, and additionally, are allowing opponents just 93.2 points, good for fourth in the league, and are scoring 103.3 a contest, which ranks sixth overall.
Los Angeles Clippers at Golden State Warriors | Tickets | 10:30 p.m. ET
The fifth and final Christmas Day matchup will feature a return to the West Coast for the Los Angeles Clippers at Golden State Warriors. Clippers first-year head coach Doc Rivers has revitalized a franchise brimming with talent in point guard Chris Paul and power forward Blake Griffin, while center DeAndre Jordan and shooting guard Jamal Crawford have continue to provide sparks when needed most. Through 25 games, Griffin has tallied 20.1 points per game, with Paul adding 11.5 assists, and Jordan pulling down 12.8 rebounds.
The Warriors have struggled a bit as of late, but will have the advantage of facing the Clippers at home where they've lost just three games this year. While Stephen Curry has been fantastic yet again – averaging a team-best 24.1 points and 8.9 assists – his supporting cast has been impressive as well. A starter in the first 25 games, Klay Thompson is averaging 20.2 points of his own, while Andrew Bogut has added 9.9 rebounds.