Good news, everyone: The NBA’s Christmas Day slate is here! As has been the case in recent years, the league did a wonderful job giving us a ton of good games to watch all day. Headlined by the always fun Finals rematch, Christmas Day will include a few pairings based on series we saw during the 2017 postseason while simultaneously highlighting some of the NBA’s top young stars and most intriguing teams.
But if you can’t watch everything, don’t worry, we have your back. We decided to rank all five Christmas Day games by watchability. Every game on here should be fun to some extent, but if you need to schedule your Dec. 25 accordingly, here’s what you should prioritize. (All times are in Eastern.)
5. Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Los Angeles Lakers (TNT, 10 p.m.)
As of right now, this seems like it will be the most one-sided Christmas Day game. With all due respect to Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram, the Lakers still have a way to go before they are considered among the NBA’s elite. Sure, it’s possible that Magic Johnson makes some kind of massive trade that no one sees coming, but for now, he’ll have to make due with Los Angeles being built around the last two No. 2 overall draft picks. Ho hum.
But the big thing is here is the fact that we’ll see a Wolves squad that has really high expectations heading into this season. Behind the trio of Jimmy Butler, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Andrew Wiggins, the team has a core that should give fans reasons for optimism. Plus if the Wolves can get Kyrie Irving without giving up any of those dudes (which seems very unlikely), this will be an absolutely loaded squad.
While the Lakers likely won’t be among the West’s elites yet, this game should still be good. At the very least, it’s a fun one to watch to end the night.
4. Philadelphia 76ers vs. New York Knicks (ESPN, Noon)
This game has the potential to be a banger. We don’t know for sure, of course, because we don’t know what the Knicks or Sixers will look like. For New York, it may be a team in transition after a potential Carmelo Anthony move, one built around Kristaps Porzingis (and, I guess, Ron Baker, who will definitely be around as he has a no-trade clause). For Philly, it’s all about how its core of Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Markelle Fultz, and Dario Saric will develop by that point, along with how the first two dudes on this list can recover from injuries that cut their seasons short last year. In the case of Simmons, it’s an injury that kept him off the floor entirely.
But still, Embiid vs. Porzingis just might end up being awesome. When they played one another last year, Embiid’s 21-point, 14-rebound performance was much better than Porzingis and his seven points and two boards. The Sixers won that game, 98-97, thanks to heroics from an unlikely source: T.J. McConnell.
3. Washington Wizards vs. Boston Celtics (ABC, 5:30 p.m.)
This one will lack holiday cheer, partly because you’d think that one of these teams is going to wear all-black to the stadium. This turned into one of the best rivalries in the league last year and gave us an absolutely fantastic Eastern Conference Semifinal matchup, one that the Celtics won, 4-3. Basically, the NBA gave us a matchup between two teams that legitimately do like one another here. Happy holidays!
Like all of their matchups last year, this game will be an intense affair between two of the best squads in the East. Boston re-loaded this offseason by adding Gordon Hayward and drafting Jayson Tatum to make up for the loss of Avery Bradley, while the Wizards kept their core together by giving a whole bunch of money to Otto Porter.
Oh, and John Wall and Brad Beal are still here, as are Isaiah Thomas and Al Horford. The league gave us an incredible matchup in the late afternoon slate with this one.
2. Houston Rockets vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (ABC, 8 p.m.)
Watching James Harden and Russell Westbrook throw haymakers at one another is always fun. But this year, things are going to go to another level with the additions of Chris Paul in Houston and Paul George in Oklahoma City.
You can make a very good case for either of these teams (along with San Antonio, which gets to spend Christmas at home consuming a lovely meal this year) being the second-best squad out west. While this won’t necessarily be a face-off that determines the team most likely to take down the Warriors, it should give us a glimpse into which of these teams are better once they are at full-strength. As we know, the George-less Thunder and Paul-less Rockets faced off in the first round of the postseason last year, with Harden’s squad getting the better of the MVP and company in five games.
The x-factor in this one could be the third star for both squads. For Oklahoma City, it will probably be big man Steven Adams. For Houston … well, could it be Carmelo Anthony?
1. Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Golden State Warriors (ABC, 3 p.m.)
What else? Obviously, this is the biggest regular season game of the year, as it will likely give us a preview of the NBA Finals for the fourth year in a row. Even if Irving isn’t around — which, at this point, who knows — watching LeBron James take on Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, and co. is always must-see television. It says a lot that these two teams have seemingly played 500 times over the last three years, and yet whenever they take the floor, it’s the biggest game of the season.
Of course, if it wants to be better than last year’s Christmas Day game, it’ll take something special. Especially if Irving is moved, as he nailed the dagger that took down the Dubs in dramatic fashion.