The NFL gets Thanksgiving. The NBA won Christmas.
The NFL is playing one game on Christmas this year as well, but December 25 has become a holiday for hoop fans. The NBA has done a great job scheduling its most intriguing games for Christmas, turning them into an all-day celebration of the sport. Given the late start of this season, this also serves as a small start to the season this year.
Some of the league’s best teams and players will be in the spotlight, and here’s an overview of betting for every match with spreads from BetMGM (and all-time East):
New Orleans Pelicans at Miami Heat (-5.5), 12 p.m.
It will be weird that we don’t see the New York Knicks on Christmas, even though they turned into the NBA version of the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving. It’s a smart move, as the NBA can highlight one of its best-selling stars against defending champions of the Eastern Conference in the first game of the day.
Zion Williamson’s rookie season was limited due to injury and the Pelicans were wary of him. This season should not have the same restrictions. New Orleans brings a nice win at the opening in Toronto and maybe this team will experience a breakthrough. Miami battled Orlando at the opening. But Heat is still a quality team and competitor in the East, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see them bounce back.
Select: Heat -5.5
Golden State Warriors at Milwaukee Bucks (-9), 2:30 p.m.
Bucks could be a Christmas addition for a few more years, thanks to Giannis Antetokounmpou who signed the supermax extension. The back-to-back MVP is one of the league’s biggest draws, for a team that was very good in the regular season but has yet to reach the NBA Finals.
Golden State also has a former MVP in Stephen Curry, but this is no longer a team fighting for the championship. The initial defeat by the Brooklyn Nets highlighted the lack of quality options after Curry, although rookie James Wiseman played well. Still, this is a pretty big spread and the Warriors will want to show something after they delight them in the opener.
Select: Warriors +9
Brooklyn Nets (-2) at the Boston Celtics, 5 p.m.
The question for the Celtics earlier this season will be how they will adjust without Gordon Hayward, who left the free agency, and Kembe Walker, who came out with a knee injury. There’s still a lot of talent on the Celtics, and their stars have played great in the opening win over the Bucks, but it’s going to be hard for them against the deep Nets.
Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant could have free nights this season as Brooklyn tries to keep them healthy and fresh, but when the Nets are in full force, it will be hard to beat them. We saw it when they were cruising next to the Warriors in the first game of the season.
Select: Networks -2
Dallas Mavericks at Los Angeles Lakers (-6), 8 p.m.
The Lakers have the best squad in the NBA league, and they entered the season as the clear favorite of the championship. But it’s also a team that barely had two months off after winning the NBA Finals and may not be locked in the early part of the regular season. The Clippers played very well against the Lakers at the opening of the dinner, and LeBron James played just 28 minutes.
The Mavericks will be without big man Kristaps Porzingis earlier this season, but they still have Luka Doncic, the favorite of the pre-season MVP at BetMGM. Doncic struggled at the start of Wednesday’s opening against Phoenix, although he ultimately had a 32-point defeat. The Lakers will be able to cruise against many teams when they are concentrated and motivated, and may be encouraged by the Christmas game, but the Lakers could be the team to fade earlier this season.
Select: Mavericks +6
Los Angeles Clippers (-1.5) at Denver Nuggets, 10:30 p.m.
If you still want more hoops after four great games, here’s a late night dessert. The Clippers are a good team and they looked fantastic against the Lakers at the opening. The problem with the Nuggets could be that the Clippers can attack the weakness of their lineup. The Nuggets ’defense on the wings is questionable, and they will have problems with Paul George and Kawhie Leonard. Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokić can score, but will need to score a ton to overcome what George and Leonard could do. The initial defeat by Sacramento was not a good start for Denver either.
Select: Scissors -1.5