NBA action on Christmas Day is now upon us. The day begins with the New Orleans Pelicans visiting the Miami Heat at 12:00 p.m. ET on ESPN. The day continues with a doubleheader on ABC. First, the Chicago Bulls take on the Oklahoma City Thunder at 2:30 p.m. ET, then in a finals rematch, the Golden State Warriors face the Cleveland Cavaliers at 5:00 p.m. ET.
A second doubleheader on ESPN carries us into the evening. The first match-up is a Texas showdown between the San Antonio Spurs and Houston Rockets at 8:00 p.m. ET, and the night ends with a battle in Los Angeles when the Lakers host the Clippers at 10:30 p.m. ET.
Below are some breakdowns of the five head-to-head match-ups.
Jrue Holiday grew up watching Christmas Day games, with his hometown Los Angeles Lakers almost being an annual fixture in the NBA’s holiday lineup.
He’s never gotten to play on the holiday.
That is, until now.
He’s not alone. Several players will make their debut under the Christmas lights, including New Orleans star Anthony Davis — the reason why the Pelicans are on the Christmas schedule. Then there are some of the top rookies like Miami’s Justise Winslow and the Lakers’ D’Angelo Russell. And the wait may be over for experienced players like the Clippers’ Josh Smith, Miami’s Gerald Green, the Lakers’ duo of Roy Hibbert and Lou Williams, all set to play on Christmas for the first time.
“We got Christmas Day because of Anthony,” Holiday said. “I think everybody knows why. I’m not offended or anything by being passed over or whatever. But it’s pretty cool to play on Christmas. Thank you, Anthony.”
As many as 46 players could make their Christmas debuts Friday, when the league’s holiday slate has New Orleans at Miami, Chicago at Oklahoma City, Cleveland at the Warriors in an NBA Finals rematch, San Antonio at Houston and then the Clippers and Lakers meeting in Los Angeles.
For some like Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade, playing on Christmas is as much of a holiday tradition as presents. Bryant will be in his 16th Christmas game — his Lakers haven’t had Dec. 25 off since 1998. Wade will play in his 11th Christmas matchup for the Heat, who are looking for their seventh consecutive win on the big day.
“I’m so damn happy about it,” Bryant said, “and so damn thankful for it.”
For others, like Cleveland’s Richard Jefferson, this has been a long time coming: His only other Christmas spent on the court was 2002. But it’s a relatively safe bet that the widest-eyed players Friday will be those first experiencing the day in which the NBA dominates the sports landscape.
“It’s an honor,” Oklahoma City coach Billy Donovan said.
Donovan remembers plenty of details from his only other involvement with the Christmas NBA slate. He was with the New York Knicks in 1987, playing seven minutes and shooting 1-for-3 in a loss to Detroit. He left Madison Square Garden after the game, caught the train from Penn Station — under the arena — to Long Island to his aunt’s home for the family Christmas gathering.
“I think playing on Christmas Day is always an exciting time,” Donovan said.
Many of the league’s biggest names are in this year’s lineup: LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Derrick Rose,Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Chris Bosh, Dwight Howard, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Kyrie Irving, Chris Paul and LaMarcus Aldridge.
“It’s a fun day,” said Aldridge, who hasn’t played on Christmas since 2010 and is in his first season with San Antonio. “Everybody’s at home waiting for the games. It’s an honor to be on Christmas Day. I think everybody’s looking forward to it, for sure.”
Few are probably looking forward to it more than Davis.
“We know all the hype around the Christmas Day games,” Davis said. “It’s kind of a big deal. … Just love watching the games. The past couple of years you watch and I know we could be there. Now we’re finally here.”
Discipline: The Phoenix Suns have suspended forward Markieff Morris two games for what was termed “conduct detrimental to the team.”
The suspension came one day after Morris threw a towel at coach Jeff Hornacek in the fourth quarter of a 104-96 home loss to the Denver Nuggets.