Now the real season starts
Christmas Day slate headlined by Lakers-Clippers
The MVP is playing. So are the reigning champions, north of the border.
And in LA, the NBA’s newest dynamic duos will square off as well.
On the 65th day of the season, with 454 games — more than one-third of the schedule — already in the books, the NBA’s unofficial start date has arrived. The annual Christmas Day quintupleheader of games is Wednesday, the day where the casual fan typically turns their attention toward the NBA.
“It’s going to be cool, man,” said Raptors guard Kyle Lowry, who’ll be making his Christmas debut. “I’ve always watched it on TV ever since I was a young child. And it’s going to be awesome to step foot on that floor on Christmas Day, have my family and friends around and have the whole world watching.”
The good news from a ratings perspective: Four of the Eastern Conference’s five best teams so far are on the schedule, all playing each other. The bad news: The two worst teams in the Western Conference so far are also on the schedule. But LeBron James and Anthony Davis’ first Christmas as Los Angeles Lakers teammates — facing off against the crosstown rival Clippers — should certainly draw plenty of eyeballs.
The other matchups: the Celtics visit the Raptors in the NBA’s first Christmas game in Canada, followed by the Bucks at the 76ers. , the Rockets traveling to face the Warriors, the Lakers-Clippers contest and then a nightcap between the Pelicans and a Nuggets team led by Nikola Jokic and off to the best start in franchise history (20-8) and resulting in coach Michael Malone having his contract extended on Tuesday.
“You’re always told that the best teams play on Christmas, the All-Star players play on Christmas and the whole world is watching this game,” said Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, the league’s reigning MVP.
The potential certainly exists for some playoffpreview matchups. It’s not a stretch to think that the Raptors and Celtics or 76ers and Bucks will wind up meeting in a best-ofseven this spring . And the same holds true in Los Angeles, where the Clippers and Lakers might be the best of the West.
The Lakers have Davis and James. The Clippers now have Paul George and two-time NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard. Those two pairings shook up the league’s landscape considerably when they came together this past summer, and so far with the Lakers are 24-6 and the Clippers at 22-10 neither side has much to complain about.
“I think we’re good,” George said.
The Clippers are 10-3 in games where both Leonard and George start. Davis and James are one of two duos where both are averaging more than 25 points per game; the Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins are the other.
If there was any confusion about whether James and Davis could work together, those questions have been answered.
“We know what the end goal is,” Davis said. “And when you have guys like that, with veteran leadership, when everyone is locked in to our goal, it’s easy for us to jell together.”
LeBron James (23) and Anthony Davis will play on Christmas Day as teammates for the first time.