LeBron James (6) and the Heat face Pau Gasol (16) and the Lakers on Christmas Day.
(Photo: Jayne Kamin-Oncea, USA TODAY Sports)
We joke that this is the day NBA season previews should run.
On Christmas, the NBA finally captures the sporting world's attention with a broader brush, even though the season is nearly one-third complete. 'Tis the season!
Most, however, will just be finding out on Christmas how the season has gone. Imagine those fans' astonishment when they see that the Eastern Conference is bad enough to justifiably cancel two of its playoff rounds and stage a best-of-21 series between Miami and Indiana.
This year's Christmas lineup is not all swishes and dunks, but a hoophead will never turn down a series of five consecutive NBA game telecasts - Bulls-Nets, Thunder-Knicks, Heat-Lakers, Rockets-Spurs and Clippers-Warriors. We suggest that you set up the new big-screen television before the two nightcaps tip off.
In a 66-year tradition of NBA games on Christmas, here is a by-the-numbers, good-and-bad look at what around 33 million people will be watching in 215 countries Wednesday:
All-Stars and fallen stars
36 - All-Star players who dot the Christmas rosters.
6 - All-Stars who play for Brooklyn, a 9-18. Stump your buddies by asking them to name all six. Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Joe Johnson, Brook Lopez, Deron Williams and, yes, Andrei Kirilenko (10 seasons ago).
6 - Most Valuable Players on the Christmas rosters, including three multi-MVP winners in Miami's LeBron James, San Antonio's Tim Duncan and the Los Angeles Lakers' Steve Nash.
3 - Half of those former MVPs will not play in the Christmas games. Nash (back), Kobe Bryant (knee) and Derrick Rose (knee) are out for extended periods of time because of injuries. Kevin Garnett and Duncan each just took a game off for "rest."
Where's the (Kevin) Love?
5 - Five of the NBA's six top scorers will be in Christmas games. Only Minnesota's Kevin Love (third) is left out of the group.
1 - Only one Christmas game will feature a matchup of two of those top scorers. Scoring leader Kevin Durant and the Western Conference-leading Oklahoma City Thunder will face off against second-place scorer Carmelo Anthony (maybe) and the miserable New York Knicks.
Rotten Big Apple
49 - New York's record number of Christmas appearances after today's home game with Oklahoma City.
27 - Games the Knicks were on pace to win entering Monday night despite the league's second-highest payroll ($86.9 million). Unfortunately, that winning, or losing, pace still makes you a playoff contender in the Leastern Conference.
Long live the King
60 - The still-standing Christmas scoring record set by New York's Bernard King in 1984 in a 120-114 loss to New Jersey.
3 - Months later that King suffered a devastating knee injury requiring reconstructive surgery, which wiped out his next season and left him a shadow of his peak years. In that Christmas game, Micheal Ray Richardson led the Nets' win with 36 points.