0

New York Knicks continue a Christmas tradition at MSG, LeBron James laces up: NBA's festive slate

Share
New York Knicks continue a Christmas tradition at MSG, LeBron James laces up: NBA's festive slate

Christmas comes with traditions. Like the New York Knicks playing at Madison Square Garden. Or LeBron James laces up his sneakers and goes to work. And the defending NBA champions will be in for holiday game action.

All those things are happening this year. And this holiday features a new twist: Memphis, welcome to the Christmas stage.

The NBA’s Christmas quintupleheader is Sunday, with the Grizzlies and Ja Morant set to play on Dec. 25 for the first time in franchise history.

They get the distinction of going to Golden State and facing the reigning – albeit shorthanded and reeling of late – champions in a rematch from last season’s Western Conference semifinals, which the Warriors won in six games.

This is the 15th consecutive year that five games have been played on Christmas. A few things to know about the five matchups (all Eastern time):

It has become a tradition for the New York Knicks to play at Madison Square Garden every Christmas

It has become a tradition for the New York Knicks to play at Madison Square Garden every Christmas

PHILADELPHIA AT NEW YORK, Noon

The Knicks are extending their record for Christmas appearances, choosing to play on the holiday for the 55th time. Of those, 47 were at home.

This is the 13th Knicks-76ers Christmas game; less than two teams have met on the holiday. And it features two of the NBA’s hottest teams right now – the Knicks are 8-2 in their last 10 games, and the 76ers are on a seven-game winning streak. Joel Embiid leads the NBA in scoring with 33 points per game.

Fact: 76ers coach Doc Rivers played four times on Christmas, including once when he was with the Knicks, and all four of those games were on the road. Add in his years of coaching, and it’s the 17th time Rivers has been a part of a Christmas game – the 15th will be a road game.

LA LAKERS AT DALLAS, 2:30 p.m

LeBron James seems to show up at Christmas as often as Santa Claus does. If James plays, it will be his 17th Christmas appearance, which would break a tie with Kobe Bryant for the most in NBA history. If he plays and the Lakers win, it will be the 11th time James has walked away from Christmas as a winner – another record for NBA players.

And the Lakers are coming off Christmas for the 24th year in a row. They entered with an all-time Dec. 25 record 24-24, the most holiday wins in NBA history, one ahead of the Knicks.

It will be Mavericks star Luka Doncic’s second game, after he and Dallas lost a road game to the Lakers in 2020. Mavs coach Jason Kidd has played on the holiday four times, including losses to James and Miami Heat in an NBA Finals rematch to open the 2011-12 season.

Fact: The Mavericks will unveil a statue of Basketball Hall of Fame nominee Dirk Nowitzki in their arena hours before the game.

LeBron James will compete on Christmas Day for the 17th time in his long and successful career

LeBron James will compete on Christmas Day for the 17th time in his long and successful career

BUCKS AT CELTICS, 5 p.m

It’s a double rematch, after Milwaukee defeated Boston on Christmas last year and the Celtics topped the Bucks in seven games in last season’s Eastern Conference semifinals.

Before the arrival of Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Bucks had only played on Christmas four times in their history. They are now playing on the holiday for the fifth straight season – even though Antetokounmpo appeared to hurt his right hand in Friday night’s loss to the Brooklyn Nets.

Related:  Willy Gnonto's scissor-kick for Leeds conjured up memories of Paulo Di Canio - but whose was better?

The Celtics didn’t exactly roll in the match. They’ve dropped five of their last seven games, after a 21-5 start to the season – but are coming off of Friday’s impressive 121-109 win over Minnesota.

Fact: This is Boston’s 36th Christmas game, but only its fourth at home. The Celtics, for decades, have insisted they don’t want workers in the arena and others away from their families on holiday.

Giannis Antetokounmpo (right) and the Bucks face their fifth straight game on Christmas Day

Giannis Antetokounmpo (right) and the Bucks face their fifth straight game on Christmas Day

GRIZZLIES AT WARRIORS, 8 p.m

Stephen Curry is out with an injury for Golden State, which is 2-7 in its last nine games. This matchup is the opening of an eight-game homestand for the defending champions, who are 15-18 and now out of the Western Conference playoff picture.

“Obviously, we’ve got to turn things around,” said Warriors coach Steve Kerr. “The good news is that the standings are pretty bunched up in the West. Despite our record, we are not in dire straits. We need to get solid. We need to get some guys healthy. And we need to start playing better, obviously, and getting some momentum.”

For Morant and the Grizzlies, this is a stage and a matchup they want. Morant tweeted his excitement for Warriors forward Draymond Green when the NBA announced the Christmas schedule last summer; Green responded by inviting Morant and his family over for Christmas dinner.

Fact: Now that Memphis is in a Christmas game, Charlotte is the only active franchise that will play on the holiday.

SUNS AND NUGGETS, 10:30 p.m

Denver is looking for its first Christmas win since 1994, and two-time defending NBA MVP Nikola Jokic is playing like someone who definitely deserves consideration to win the award again.

The Suns did not play on Christmas from 2010 to 2020, but they are back on the holiday schedule for the second consecutive season. They lost to Golden State last year on Christmas.

Fact: Phoenix is ​​12-7 on Christmas, the league’s fifth-best record. Denver is 1-6, the league’s second-worst record entering the year behind only Toronto (0-2).

Nikola Jokic (left) is in great form as his Nuggets host the Phoenix Suns on Christmas Day

Nikola Jokic (left) is in great form as his Nuggets host the Phoenix Suns on Christmas Day