NBA Christmas Games: The History & 2018 Matchups
Its the most wonderful time of the year. Not just to spend time with family and give gifts, but also for sports fans, namely basketball fans.
As tradition holds, the annual Christmas games are upon us. Some of the most memorable games in NBA history took place on Christmas Day, which was no doubt a gift to fans.
With that said, 2018 has gifted us with some exciting NBA Christmas games and you wont want to miss them.
2018 NBA Christmas Games
The odds might not be on the Knicks side, but this is going to be an interesting matchup nonetheless. For one, lets go back a few weeks to the last encounter between the Bucks and Knicks on December 1st, one which many of you will remember.
The Knicks came through with a 136-134 victory over the Bucks. The highlight of the night was Mario Hezonja stepping over Giannis Antetokounmpo, which many have cited (and fairly so) as a disrespectful gesture. Giannis wasnt happy and he gave Hezonja a warning.
Giannis Antetokonmpo on Mario Hezonja stepping over him:— Anthony Puccio (@APOOCH) December 2, 2018
Oh yeah, Im gonna punch him in the stand next time. pic.twitter.com/nEAHjYeJ4y
Threats aside, the Bucks are looking to avenge their narrow loss to the Knicks come Christmas. The Knicks are at a disadvantage here considering their star player, Kristaps Porzingis, remains sidelined with a torn ACL. As for the Bucks, the odds are in their favor, and with the Greek Freak whos continuously improving his game, Giannis Antetokounmpo can definitely put in a performance that will show New York whos king of the court.
We all love when the backstory behind a game mixes bad blood with the clash of titans. As for bad blood, weve got the story of Melo. Anthony spent one lackluster season with the Oklahoma Thunder and of course, the Thunder certainly felt like they flushed $26 million down the toilet with his sub-par play. So naturally, seeing an aggravated Oklahoma team go up against the Houston Rockets will no doubt be interesting, who also took a shot at the aging player and found the same result.
As for clashing of titans, this game features previous MVP winners James Harden and Russell Westbrook going up against each other. There are also secondary superstars anticipated to play in Chris Paul and Paul George. With that said, this is going to be a pretty exciting game where individual players and teams (Oklahoma Thunder - who had a bad 2017-18 season) will have much to prove.
Predictions for teams in the Eastern conference are looking quite interesting. With the freefall of Cleveland after the departure of their hometown hero, its not unreasonable to assume the Boston Celtics will be representing the conference in the NBA Finals. After all, OddsShark has given the Boston Celtics the second-best odds to win a title (unsurprisingly, Golden State is in first).
OddsShark puts their Christmas day opponents, the Philadelphia 76ers, in fifth place with 16-1 odds of winning the championship. These numbers put the rivalry in perspective, especially with so many young and talented players on both sides.
On the 76ers, you have the likes of Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid who played a major role in helping Philadelphia win 52 games last season. Both have shown potential to be all-stars. As for the Celtics, there is Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, and Terry Rozier - all three of which have helped the Celtics shut down the 76ers last season. Of course, theyve also got Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, who should return to their usual form.
True, this is no rematch of the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors, but with LeBron in the west, itll sure feel like one. Of course, theres much more at stake and to pay attention to with this matchup than others slated for Christmas Day. Youve got the Lakers who are filled with promising youngsters, but who have roles to fill, versus the defending champs in the Warriors who are completely stacked with the elite of the elite.
With Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and now potentially DeMarcus Cousins in the mix (assuming hes healthy enough to play), the Warriors still look like the big bad wolf of the NBA. Maybe the Lakers wont topple the Warriors on Christmas. However, the match will further test how the young stars Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, and Kyle Kuzma gel with LeBron and vice-versa.
From a virtually unknown rookie to a top-tier young talent, Donovan Mitchell has been granted his wish to face off with the Portland Trail Blazers in Utah on Christmas Day. This may give him even more of a push for the matchup, but its not like he needs it.
Mitchell helped the Utah Jazz reach the second round of the playoffs last season, averaging 20.5 points per game the regular season, and 24.4 points per game in the playoffs. Of course, we cant forget about the Trail Blazers - namely Damian Lillard who was an MVP candidate last season. A head-to-head battle with these two will no doubt be fun to watch, so make sure to keep this one in mind.
History Of NBA Christmas Games
The first NBA game played on Christmas occurred on December 25th, 1947, one year after the NBAs creation. The matchup of the night was the New York Knicks vs Providence Steamrollers at Madison Square Garden - the Knicks beat the Steamrollers 89-75.
Originally, the schedule and matchups were determined by the proximity of the teams - the closer they were, the more likely they were to play each other. This was done to cut down on travel time so that the players could spend more time with their families.
However, the deciding factor for the matchups became team performance, turning NBA Christmas games into a showcase for the best teams.
Interesting Facts About NBA Christmas Games
- The Knicks have played more games on Christmas Day than any other team; Naturally, theyve won the most number of games (22) and lost the most number of games (30) on this day.
- Kobe Bryant has played more games on Christmas Day than any other player (16).
- Clippers coach Doc Rivers & former Lakers coach Phil Jackson have both participated in NBA Christmas games as both a player and a coach. In fact, Jackson won his 1,000th game as a coach on Christmas day in 2008.
- During the 2011 NBA lockout, the season opener finally took place on Christmas Day that year - the first game featured the Boston Celtics and, of course, the New York Knicks.
- NBA Christmas games acquire some of the highest ratings of all televised NBA events. In 2010, for example, the Christmas matchup aired on ABC and ESPN delivered the highest cumulative audience ever for a regular season NBA game.
Memorable NBA Christmas Games & Moments
We can go on for days and argue which NBA Christmas Day games were the greatest and most exciting. Of course, hardcore fans whove remembered to watch basketball games on the 25th will probably have their own favorites.
But coming straight from the source itself, the NBA has compiled a reel showcasing some of the most memorable games on Christmas day. They largely focus on individual players who were gifted with stellar performances that day. Take a look here.
And just for fun, you can check out this Wired Moments video on Christmas NBA games.
A Holly Jolly Night of NBA Action
We know youve got a long going on and trying to rush your parties or affairs to sit in front of your TV to watch the game might be of bad taste.
So make it a family thing if you have to. You can purchase tickets to the 2018 NBA Christmas Day games on Fanxchange and make it a Christmas you never forget!