• The NBA Christmas Day slate is headlined by another round of LeBron James vs. the Warriors but has the novelty worn off? The Crossover ranks the holiday slate from worst to best.
By Rohan Nadkarni
August 08, 2018

The NBA’s Christmas Day slate has been revealed, thanks to multiple reports. The most loaded day on the league calendar will feature the usual suspects and some predictable matchups. The holiday will be headlined by another round of LeBron James vs. the Warriors, though this iteration will feature James on the Lakers. Elsewhere, Carmelo Anthony will look to exact revenge when the Rockets face the Thunder, while the NBA has generously allowed you to sleep in this year by (reportedly) scheduling the Knicks in the early game. Let’s rank the Christmas Day slate.

5. Bucks vs. Knicks

This would be a great game if Kristaps Porzingis were healthy. Alas, the Knicks could be one of the worst teams in the league this season. The Bucks are always worth the price of admission thanks to Giannis Antetokounmpo alone, but this contest will definitely lack the star power you’ll see the rest of the day. If you’re celebrating on Christmas, this would be a good time to get all your cooking prep work done. Or go play with your kids. Tire them out. It’s going to be a long day.

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4. Blazers vs. Jazz

Both of these teams finished last season incredibly hot, but Portland fizzled in the playoffs while Utah swung into the second round. Watching Donovan Mitchell try to match C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard is exactly what you want to see during what will be the late game.

By this time of day, you don’t want storylines and stakes weighing you down. You want—no, need—pure, unfiltered, unadulterated buckets to keep you going through the end of the night.

This won’t be an inconsequential shootout, however, thanks to two stingy defenses and two teams who have aspirations of being in the top half of the conference. This matchup is sneaky good. And with the way the West is stacked this season, a game like this could end up having an impact on playoff seeding months down the road.

Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

3. Lakers vs. Warriors

The novelty of LeBron on the Lakers will have slightly worn off by Christmas, and the novelty of LeBron playing against the Warriors wore off about two Finals ago. Look, this game will do massive ratings, and it will be interesting to watch how L.A. measures up against the clear title favorites.

Having said that, right now these two squads are simply not in the same class. Previous versions of this contest with the Cavaliers arguably featured more starpower as well, though the Lakers’ youngsters have a chance to make that leap this year.

The Warriors also may not take this game very seriously, and even if they do, they are liable to not start trying their hardest until the third quarter. Watching James, Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, and maybe Boogie Cousins (okay, and Draymond Green, too) on a court together should always be appreciated, but it could be another year before Lakers-Warriors becomes a truly classic matchup.

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2. Rockets vs. Thunder

This one has a little spice to it! I love that the NBA uses Christmas as a moment to put people in awkward situations. This isn’t quite Kobe vs. Shaq, but Melo facing his old Thunder squad should lead to some fun moments. OKC, of course, couldn’t get rid of Anthony fast enough this summer, and was probably prepared to dump him for nothing if Dennis Schröder wasn’t on the trade block.

How will the Rockets look by this point of the season? Will Melo help account for the losses of Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute? And what if the Thunder are playing way better without Anthony? This game is basically like if the Thunder and Melo used to be dating, broke up, found new partners they were much more excited about, and then were forced to eat Christmas dinner together.

Oh, and outside of the drama, the on-court product should be pretty good. Russell Westbrook is always eye-catching if polarizing. James Harden will try to execute his offensive magic against a premier perimeter defender in Paul George. And hopefully Chris Paul dances in someone’s face after hitting a big shot. This matchup checks a lot of boxes, and could end up being a playoff preview.

1. 76ers vs. Celtics

A rematch of the East Semis, this is the easy pick for the best contest of the Christmas slate. A fully healthy Boston team should win more than 60 games this season, while the 76ers could take another leap now that Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons actually have full seasons under their belts.

This one has everything you want from a Christmas game. Two great teams. A budding rivalry. Stars all over the court, and role players who can hold their own. Expert coaching. And a taste of what should almost definitely be a heated playoff series. Boston and Philly are on a collision course for the conference finals in 2019. A potential taste of the postseason in December is even better than Christmas in August.