Merry Christmas! NBA Preview of Christmas Day Games:
To the chagrin of players and coaches, the NBA is pumping out five games this year on Christmas day. Phil Jackson and LeBron James have already expressed their distaste for christmas games, but fans have every right to be thrilled with the christmas schedule. Here are two marquee match-ups:
Boston Celtics at Orlando Magic:
This game is intriguing on so many levels. Firstly, these are two Easter Conference contenders with Boston leading the pack all season. Orlando is fresh off of a 123-101 crushing of the NBA-best San Antonio Spurs.
Orlando, though, have essentially a brand new team after making two blockbuster trades this past week. With the additions of Gilbert Arenas, Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu (who already played for Orlando in the past) and Earl Clark. After watching this new team demolish the San Antonio Spurs, it will be interesting to see how they fair against the next best team in the NBA on a back-to-back.
More importantly, it will be interesting to see how Orlando can manage these new moving pieces. Stan Van Gundy has already stated that Jameer Nelson is his guy, but with Gilbert Arenas in the fold, it will be difficult to manage the two. Arenas had a solid outing against the Spurs, putting up 14 points, 9 assists and 6 rebounds. At some point, Van Gundy might have to eat his words and hand the reigns over to Arenas. Otis Smith didn’t bring Arenas and his absurd contract over from Washington so that he could come off the bench for 30 minutes a game.
Arenas may be the headline of the trades made, but let’s not overlook the value that Jason Richardson and Hedo Turkoglu can bring to the team. Both of these guys are very solid veterans, and the last time Turkoglu played for Orlando, they made it to the NBA finals.
If Van Gundy can find a way to make the pieces fit, this Orlando team could be very dangerous.
Miami Heat at Los Angeles Lakers:
This game, of course, is the premier match-up of the night, as two star-studded teams will square off in LA.
It will be interesting to see how Miami plays against one of the best teams in the league. They played a tough, close game with the Dallas Mavericks a week ago in what was a surprisingly low-key match-up, but ended up with a two-point loss to the defensive-minded Dallas team. It seems that Miami has a tendency to look great against mediocre teams, but when they go up against the best of the NBA, they fall short — especially against great defensive teams.
Also, there is a chance Dwyane Wade won’t be playing in this game, which puts a damper on the game — and the outcome — entirely. The value of this game is that we can get an idea of how good Miami really is, as they’ve now had over 30 games to build chemistry, but without Wade in the mix, this game is entirely about entertainment value.
LA, on the other hand, is just now getting fully healthy with Andrew Bynum returning from injury. It’s hard to imagine the Miami Heat shutting down both Pau Gasol and Bynum with Chris Bosh and Zydrunas Ilgauskas leading the front court defensive efforts. Bosh and Ilgauskas are two decorated offensive players, but they have yet to prove their worth (it’s too late for Ilgauskas) on the defensive end, and this will cause problems for them agains the better teams in the league. WIthout Wade, this game will be very one-sided in favor of LA.