Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Day Hoops Preview

5 Basketball Games to watch this Christmas. Here's a quick look at what you can watch:

Game 1

Chicago Bulls (18-9) at New York Knicks (17-12)

This game pits a pair of team that made big changes this offseason. Looking to bounce back from a 29-53 season, the Knicks went out and got Amare Stoudemire. The Bulls, coming off a 41-41 season that saw them earning the Eastern Conference's number 8 seed, went out and added a big man of their own in Carlos Boozer. Interestingly enough, both Stoudemire and Boozer were products of the 2002 NBA draft with Stoudemire going 9th overall and Boozer going early in the second round. Boozer missed the first game between these two teams last month and the Knicks were able to pull off the 120-112 victory in Chicago. It was no thanks to Stoudemire though. The Knicks big man who is second in the NBA in scoring right now, was just 5/21 from the field, turned the ball over 8 times and fouled out, but was bailed out by the Knicks' hot outside shooting as New York hit 16 of 24 3-pointers. Toney Douglas led all scorers with 30 points in 31 minutes off the bench. Derrick Rose led the Bulls with 24 points and 14 assists in a losing effort. The Bulls will have Boozer back for this one, but will be without Joakim Noah who is out following surgery to reapir torn ligaments in his thumb. The Bulls are 2-1 in 3 games without him. Noah had 12 points and 13 rebounds in their first matchup against New York.

Game 2

Boston Celtics (23-4) at Orlando Magic (17-12)

In a rematch of last year's Eastern Conference Finals, the red hot Celtics take on the new-look Magic. Winners of 14 in a row, the Celtics will once again be without starting point guard Rajon Rondo (11.2 ppg, 13.8 apg) but should have center Jermaine O'Neal back for this one giving them some more depth on their front line. The Magic recently traded size for scoring bringing in Hedo Turkoglu, Jason Richardson and Gilbert Arenas and it finally paid off on Wednesday as they gave San Antonio just their 4th loss of the year snapping the Spurs' 10 game winning streak. Still, it's Dwight Howard that leads the way for Orlando. Howard is averaging 24.2 points, 18.2 rebounds and 2.2 blocks over his last 5 games including 3 games with 20+ rebounds. Boston has not lost since dropping back to back games against Oklahoma City at home and on the road in Toronto before Thanksgiving.

Game 3

Miami Heat (22-9) at Los Angeles Lakers (21-8)

Definitely the main event for Christmas Day as far as basketball is concerned: Lebron James and the Heat vs Kobe Bryant and the Lakers. The Heat have bounced back from a slow start and are 13-1 in their last 14 games. The Lakers meanwhile have cruised to an early 7 1/2 game lead in the Pacific Division and have won 8 of 10 themselves. Many predict that this could be a preview of the NBA Finals. The Heat lead the NBA in team defense giving up only 91.2 points a game while the Lakers boast a highpowered offense and score 105.4 a game. Something's got to give. Dwyane Wade's health is in question in this one as he was forced to sit out of Miami's win over Phoenix last night. His status will be a big factor as the Heat will need all three of their stars to be on their game tomorrow night because if it comes down to supporting casts, the Lakers have a clear advantage. Matt Barnes, Steve Blake, Shannon Brown, Andrew Bynum, Derek Fisher and Ron Artest have a considerable edge over Mike Miller (yet to make a basket since returning from injury), Erick Dampier, Joel Anthony, Juwan Howard, Mario Chalmers, James Jones and Carlos Arroyo. The Heat are still really looking for a signature win this season having dropped 2 games to Boston and 2 more to Dallas so far. Could this be where they get it?

Game 4

Denver Nuggets (16-11) at Oklahoma City Thunder (20-10)

In a battle of Northwest Division rivals, the 2nd place Thunder host the 3rd place Nuggets in the first of 4 matchups between these two teams. The Thunder boast the NBA's leading scorer in Kevin Durant who comes into the game averaging 27.5 points a game. The Nuggets meanwhile counter with 7 different players averaging double figures: Carmelo Anthony, Nene Hilario, Chauncey Billups, Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington, J.R. Smith, and Ty Lawson.

Game 5

Portland Trail Blazers (15-14) at Golden State Warriors (10-18)

The Blazers enter this game winners of 3 in a row despite injuries to guard Brandon Roy and center Marcus Camby. LaMarcus Aldridge has been picking up the slack in their absence as he has averaged almost 13 points and 13 rebounds over the last 4 games. Aldridge had  17 points and 12 boards in last week's 96-95 over the Warriors while point guard Andre Miller chipped in 17 points and 8 assists. The Warriors are shorthanded these days as well with starting point guard Stephon Curry (20.1 ppg) having missed 6 straight games. There's a  slight chance he plays tomorrow night, but reports are he's still not 100%. Monta Ellis has been the star for the Warriors lately averaging 35 points in his last 4 games, including 44 in their loss to the Rockets. David Lee has been steady as well with 4 double-doubles in his last 5 games. Ellis had 26 and Lee has 13 points and 11 rebounds in last week's loss to Portland.

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