Tuesday, December 24, 2013

2013 NBA Christmas Day Preview

The NBA's tradition of Christmas Day games continues this year with an onslaught of great games from noon to night. Here is a preview of each one (all times are in Eastern Standard Time):

Chicago Bulls (10-16) at Brooklyn Nets (9-18), 12:00 pm

Both teams enter this matchup having performed well below expectations, as both were supposed to contend with the Heat and Pacers at the top of the Eastern Conference. However, neither currently hold a playoff spot in the incredibly weak East, and don't seem to be improvin
g much because their frustration and desperation have impeded their progress. In terms of this game, Chicago is the much better defensive team, allowing 93.3 ppg (2nd best in the league) to Brooklyn's 102.6, but the Nets are scoring 97.6 ppg to the Bulls' 91.8 (worst in the league), although both are in the bottom third of the league in that category. Chicago is clearly not the same without Derrick Rose, and now have nobody to match up with Deron Williams, while Brooklyn has lost Brook Lopez and now have few answers for Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer. My prediction is that the Bulls' stingy defense will halt the Nets who will continue to grow more flustered with their situation, and by the end of the game, although he may say otherwise, Jason Kidd will be wishing he had never taken the job as coach of the Nets.

Prediction: Bulls 94, Nets 75

Oklahoma City Thunder (22-5) at New York Knicks (9-18), 2:30 pm

The Thunder have the fourth-highest point differential in the league (+7.1) while the Knicks are a -2.9. Carmelo Anthony is out while the Thunder have two of the most explosive players in the league in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. None of this adds up to good things for New York, except for one thing that could give the Knicks a glimmer of hope: they are very good at securing the basketball, committing only 11.8 turnovers per game (lowest in the league) while OKC commits an average of 16.0 (fourth-highest in the league). The Knicks could surprisingly make this game interesting, also because of the improved shot selection that they are sure to have with Anthony sidelined. Their players should take more high-percentage shots (except for Andrea Bargnani...) which would certainly come as a surprise to the possibly-complacent Thunder, causing the game to be closer than expected.

Prediction: Thunder 110, Knicks 106 (OT)

Miami Heat (21-6) at Los Angeles Lakers (13-15), 5:00 pm

The Lakers are always the center of a huge controversial story or scandal, but no one will be talking about them after the Heat thrash them on Christmas. Miami has a point differential of +7.8 (tied for second highest in the league) to LA's -3.9, and the Heat force 17.3 turnovers per game (most in the league) while the Lakers only force 13.3 (third-worst in the league). The Lakers are becoming less and less motivated to play for Mike D'Antoni, and will, frankly, just fail to show up against the defending champions. With Kobe Bryant out, the Lakers have nobody to even come close to matching LeBron, who might score between 30-40 points in this game, even with the extra rest that he should receive in the fourth quarter. The Lakers are too old to run with the Heat, and are in for a rough day.

Prediction: Miami 107, LA 81

Houston Rockets (18-11) at San Antonio Spurs (22-6), 8:00 pm

The Rockets and Spurs are both top teams in the Western Conference, but the difference between them has to do with execution. The Spurs are more polished around the edges and clearly more experienced for the big moments, while the Rockets have more pure talent but lack ball security (16.4 turnovers committed per game, thi
rd-worst in the league) and are weak in certain specific areas of the game (James Harden's poor shot selection and Dwight Howard's inability to shoot free throws are examples). This game will be close, as is every game for the Rockets, and although the Spurs may win 8 times out of 10, this might be one of the times when Harden's pure scoring ability and Howard's incredible rebounding ability triumph over Greg Popovich's well-coached and refined game plan. The game should be close, but the Spur's execution in big moments won't matter when all is said and done, as Harden will hit a couple of big shots to quell San Antonio's comeback, scoring about 25-35 in total while Howard grabs rebounds into the high teens.

Prediction: Rockets 98, Spurs 92

Los Angeles Clippers (20-9) at Golden State Warriors (18-13), 10:30 pm

The Clippers go as Chris Paul goes, and the Warriors go as Stephen Curry goes. However, the Warriors rely more on their incredible 3-point shooting (40.3%, second-highest in the league) than anything else, so if they are hitting shots from behind the arc, then they will win most of their games. However, the Clippers, under defensive-minded Doc Rivers, are allowing the lowest 3-point percent
age to opponents in the league (32.0%). The question here is if defense will prevail over offenses, and in most cases it is more likely that the 3-point shooters are able to restrained, which would spell trouble for the Warriors. The Clippers, on the other hand, have multiple ways to score, whether its Chris Paul's shooting or penetration, DeAndre Jordan or Blake Griffin's low post work, or JJ Redick's 3-point shooting, they should be able capitalize on the Warrior's misses from long range, and take the victory in a hard fought battle between teams that could meet up in the playoffs.

Prediction: Clippers 101, Warriors 90

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