Across the world of sports, different leagues have claimed ownership of specific days on the calendar. The NFL, of course, owns Thanksgiving. During the summer, there’s nothing like watching the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, followed by some Major League Baseball, on the Fourth of July. If you’re a basketball fan, though, few spectacles are as sweet as the NBA Christmas Day games.
So, with the big day approaching, let’s take a look at the schedule and break things down. Here’s your viewing guide to the 2022 NBA Christmas action.
The Philadelphia 76ers and the New York Knicks start things off on ESPN
On paper, a battle between New York City and Philadelphia — two big cities with bigger personalities — should be fun. The opening game of NBA Christmas Day, however, might not be the most exciting contest.
Although the Sixers have struggled this year, they do have two elite talents on the roster in the form of Joel Embiid and James Harden. The latter has been sidelined with a foot injury, but the former is performing at an elite level. The Knicks may be close to Philly in the standings, but New York doesn’t really possess an answer for the center.
So, whether this one is a comfortable Philly win or a closer (and therefore more ugly) contest, don’t place too much stock in this one. It’s airing at 12 PM Eastern on ESPN. Maybe that’s an ideal time to open some presents.
The LA Lakers and the Dallas Mavericks are the first NBA Christmas Day game on ABC
On paper, this matchup looks mighty tasty. As you go deeper, though, things get a bit uglier.
First and foremost, the Lakers are, well, the Lakers. They’ve got some incredible talent on the roster — seriously, enjoy LeBron James while you can — but sit near the cellar of the Western Conference. The depth just isn’t there, and no amount of individual heroics can help that.
On the other side of the ledger, the Mavs have one of the best players in the modern game, Luka Doncic, and little else. Consequently, Dallas is hanging around .500, seeming too talented to truly collapse but lacking the supporting cast to push higher.
The appeal of this one is based on what you want from an NBA Christmas Day game. Are you looking for stars and individual talent? Then turn in for LeBron, Luka, and Antony Davis. If you’re hoping for an intense game that previews a playoff series, however, you might want to look elsewhere.
This one airs at 2:30 PM Eastern on ABC.
The Milwaukee Bucks and the Boston Celtics keep the party going
Now we’ve got a game with some potential postseason implications. The Bucks and the Celtics have been two of the Eastern Conference’s top teams in recent years, and it looks like that will remain the case as the calendar turns to 2023.
And, pushing beyond that narrative, there will be plenty to watch on the court. Giannis Antetokounmpo remains a uniquely talented player thanks to his blend of size, agility, and pure skill. Jayson Tatum is continuing on his upward trajectory and looking like a bigger and bigger star with each passing season. Add a fired-up Boston crowd into the mix, and you’ll have a recipe for a good time.
This game is the cornerstone of the NBA Christmas Day schedule, and it airs at 5 PM Eastern on ABC. Don’t overthink it. Watch this, not the LA Rams and Denver Broncos.
The Memphis Grizzlies and the Golden State Warriors take us into the evening
When this game was plugged into the NBA Christmas Day roster, it was probably imagined as the up-and-coming Grizzlies meeting the established Warriors in a potential changing-of-the-guard situation. A look at the standings, however, suggests the script has flipped.
Memphis sits near the top of the Western Conference, thanks in large part to the offensive efforts of Ja Morant and Desmond Bane. The club has proven capable of rattling off win streaks and seems more than ready to build on last season’s success.
Golden State, however, has struggled. Steph Curry is still doing his thing (barring a shoulder injury), but Klay Thompson still isn’t playing like his old self. The rest of the offense isn’t clicking, and James Wiseman is yet to make a significant impact.
Are there things to watch in this game? Of course. The Grizzlies are an exciting team, and Stephen Curry is always worth the price of admission. In terms of the big picture, though, this one isn’t probably what the NBA Christmas Day schedule initially imagined.
This one airs at 8 PM Eastern on both ABC and ESPN.
The Phoenix Suns and the Denver Nuggets are the nightcap to the NBA Christmas Day games
Due to time zones and the overall festivities of Christmas, a good portion of the country will probably be asleep long before this game tips off. Those who managed to hang on should enjoy an interesting contest, though.
The Nuggets have one of the league’s most individually entertaining players, Nikola Jokic, on their roster, but that doesn’t mean they’re a one-man team. Jamaal Murray, Aaron Gordon, and Michael Porter Jr. provide a balanced attack, helping Denver sit near the top of the Western Conference.
And while the Suns’ shine has dimmed a little bit, at least if you’re going by the standings. Devin Booker can still take over a game, but he’s been battling a nagging injury and hasn’t looked like himself during December on either end of the floor. Deandre Ayton is still doing his thing, but Phoenix will go as far as Booker can carry them.
So while there are some question marks around this one — at the most basic level, can Booker and the Suns do enough to keep this one interesting — there’s potential to see a worthwhile end to the NBA Christmas Day schedule.
Things tip off at 10:30 PM Eastern on ESPN, if you can make it that far.