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What’s at stake in the NBA’s 2 biggest Christmas games

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Bucks vs. Sixers and Lakers vs. Clippers should be great and might be May previews.

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Los Angeles Lakers v Milwaukee Bucks Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

We have two spectacular Christmas Day NBA matchups and another pretty good Christmas Day NBA match-up marred by injury and two pretty bad Christmas NBA matchups marred by featuring two of the worst teams in the league. So let’s focus on the positive with those two spectacular match-ups: Lakers vs. Clippers and Bucks vs. Sixers.

These could be conference finals previews. In fact, the Clippers and Sixers were popular picks to make the NBA Finals, but the Lakers and Bucks reign supreme in each conference to this point. Philly and the Clips are actually each a few spots back — LA is currently No. 4 in the West and the Sixers are No. 5 in the East. But there are very obvious reasons beyond the preseason predictions as to why they loom so large: the Clips have the most deadly wing duo in the league in Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, and the Sixers have a roster that screams defensive juggernaut.

In reality, LeBron James and Anthony Davis have been the league’s best duo, and the Bucks’ defense is completely outrageous. But the teams they’ll face on Christmas feel something like potential kryptonite. We’ll see! The Bucks haven’t faced Philly yet this season. The Clips beat the Lakers on opening night without Paul George. We’ll see.

Schedule

All times ET.

Celtics at Raptors, 12 p.m., ESPN — very watchable game, even without Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol, Marcus Smart, and maybe-or-maybe-not Gordon Hayward

Bucks at Sixers, 2:30 p.m., ABC

Rockets at Warriors, 5 p.m., ABC — yikes

Clippers at Lakers, 8 p.m., ABC and ESPN — why is ABC doing this? Is this a ratings ploy like when the MTV VMA Awards are on like 75 percent of all Viacom networks at the same time?

Pelicans at Nuggets, 10:30 p.m., ESPN — woof, congrats to the Nuggets for getting an EXTREMELY LATE 8:30 local time Christmas tip-off, your prize is an almost sure victory against an overmatched, sad team

Links

The Christmas schedule, ranked. Dan Devine on the joy the games scheduled can offer.

Mike Prada with an exceptional breakdown of what makes Milwaukee’s defense elite.

The early game against the Celtics represents the Raptors’ first-ever home game on Christmas Day, a pretty major achievement (an achievement only won immediately after winning a championship). Alex Wong takes us back to the very first Raptors’ home game to show how far the franchise has come.

REWINDER TIME! Reliving the dramatic play at the end of the horribly messy Game 3 of Knicks vs. Bulls in 1994.

Why 538’s stats love Will Barton so much.

I wrote about the five ways the NBA’s in-season tournament idea could fail.

Ben Golliver talks to Adam Silver about ~The Ratings~.

Seerat Sohi thinks Isaiah Thomas should not have been suspended for approaching hecklers in the stands.

Are the Celtics championship contenders?

The pure joy of the skeleton crew Raptors. Kyle Lowry just needs a few good men and he’s good.

Should the Clippers be concerned about blown leads?

Why is Buddy Hield struggling?

Paolo Uggetti on Kawhi turning “load management” into his actual playing style.

It’s really unbelievable that Robbie Hummel might win gold in the 2020 Olympics and the men’s USA Basketball 5-on-5 team might not.

And finally: Spencer Hall has acquired a camp chair. Where are the Avengers when we need them most?

Be excellent to each other.