Christmas is here — a day that’s known for giving, receiving and family by most people. But for losers like me? It’s basketball time. This is an honor for each team that is playing in a Christmas Day game, meaning that for one reason or another, you’re what the people want to see around the league. And I’d say that the teams featured this year represent just that.
The 10 teams who are playing are the Boston Celtics and the Brooklyn Nets; the New York Knicks and the Los Angeles Lakers; the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Miami Heat; the Houston Rockets and the Chicago Bulls; and the last game tonight will be the Devner Nuggets against the Los Angeles Clippers.
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BROOKLYN VS. BOSTON
The first game is one of the more interesting ones. Brooklyn hosts Boston Barclays center at noon EST on ESPN.
With the way that the Nets have really fallen off the map since early in the season, this game could give Boston a chance to move into second place of the Atlantic division. Each team is going to need to take advantage of key things when attacking the weaknesses of the opposition.
The Celtics will need to get Paul Pierce going against Gerald Wallace. Pierce is averaging a shade over 22 points a game and shoots 44 percent from the field when the C’s win. He’s around the 18 points per game mark and shoots a meager 42 percent from the floor in losses. If Pierce catches fire—which he usually does on these big stages—the Celtics will likely win the game.
The Nets will need to take advantage of the Celtics’ lack of rebounding production. The Celtics are last in the league in rebounds per game. Kevin Garnett leads them in rebounding with a very unimpressive seven rebounds a game. The Nets sit 13 spots higher in rebounding at 17th in the league. That’s in large part because of Reggie Evans and Andray Blatche. Combined they’re averaging 8.3 and 7.1 rebounds off of the bench. If they can provide the Nets with extra offensive possessions, they’ll dominate a Boston defense that hasn’t been very good this year.
LAKERS vs. KNICKS
The Los Angeles Lakers will host the New York Knicks in the Staples center at 3 p.m EST. The game will be nationally broadcasted on ABC. This is going to be a battle between two teams who have gone in totally opposite directions. If you read most preseason previews the Knicks were supposed to be the average team and the Lakers were supposed to contend for a championship. They’re looking more like pretenders than contenders every time they play and the Knicks look like a championship-caliber team.
To win this game the Knicks will have to have good point guard play from either Raymond Felton or Jason Kidd. Felton is more than likely going to be the X-factor for the Knicks because of the time that he gets on the floor. He’s going to have to attack the Lakers’ defense, which has played extremely poorly throughout the season. The Lakers are allowing 105.7 points per 100 possessions, per basketball-reference.com. That ranks 17th in the league. The Lakers’ point guards have been awful defensively, as well. Opposing point guards have a 17.3 PER against them. As a net, the Lakers point guards PER is a -6.3, per 82games.com. That’s awful by any standard — not only the Lakers.
If the Lakers are going to win this game, they’ll need Pau Gasol to step up and take control. The Knicks aren’t a very big team with Carmelo Anthony at the power forward position. The Lakers have to follow the blueprint that the Grizzlies did to beat the Knicks. They have to utilize the post more than the perimeter and force the opposition to guard on cuts. Gasol is the perfect player to do that. He’s a very good passer, just as his brother is, and has a plethora of moves to create opportunities in the post. If he can draw either Anthony into the low post and Chandler in the high post it will prove to be a favorable matchup for the Lakers. He can dominate Anthony down low and taking Chandler outside will provide a lack of rim protection for the Knicks.