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Ranking the NBA’s 2023 Christmas Day Games

Jan 28, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) defends Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (6) during the first half at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

Watching NBA games on Christmas Day is the best holiday tradition in sports. Each year entertaining and marquee matchups take place on December 25th. It’s one of the season’s biggest days, with five games playing for 12 hours. With the recent release of the NBA schedule, now is the perfect time to rank this year’s slate of Christmas games. 

Ranking the NBA’s 2023 Christmas Day Games

5. Philadelphia 76ers vs Miami Heat – 8:00 p.m. ET 

After facing off in the 2022 playoffs and Jimmy Butler previously playing for them, there’s some history between the Philadelphia 76ers and Miami Heat. There are looming trade rumors surrounding both teams that could impact them and this matchup in a big way. A James Harden trade will likely make the 76ers worse, while the Heat would get much better with a possible Damian Lillard trade.

However, as things currently stand, Miami might not be an entertaining or even super competitive team this year. The Heat had a magical finals run last year, but they were mediocre in the regular season. With the loss of key role players Gabe Vincent and Max Strus, Miami might be worse than last year if they can’t pull off a Lillard trade. Additionally, they aren’t always the most entertaining team; they mostly thrive in slow, grinded-out defensively-minded games. 

Amid Harden’s trade rumors and a lack of improvement in the offseason, this 76ers team feels like a train going off the rails. Philadelphia could still be a solid squad, but they don’t feel like one of the league’s top teams. Ultimately this is a matchup nobody needed to see on Christmas Day. 

4. Milwaukee Bucks vs New York Knicks – 12:00 p.m. ET

The Milwaukee Bucks playing the New York Knicks is a solid game to kick off Christmas Day. The Knicks are a rising team in the East, while the Bucks have been one of the premier teams in the conference over the past half-decade. Both squads are competitive teams that play entertaining styles of basketball. Seeing one of the game’s best players, Giannis Antetokounmpo, play at the NBA’s most historic arena makes an exciting match. 

Both teams are good defensively while having the offensive firepower to match. Milwaukee’s elite length and size have allowed them to be one of the best defensive teams for years. New York has a plethora of perimeter-scoring threats to make the matchup more interesting. It’s not a powerhouse matchup, but it’s an intriguing contest between two competitive teams. 

3. Dallas Mavericks vs Phoenix Suns – 10:30 p.m. ET

The Dallas Mavericks and Phoenix Suns have one of the best rivalries in the NBA today, making this a great Christmas matchup. The rivalry stems from the 2022 Western Conference Semifinals, in which the fourth-seeded Mavericks shocked the 64-win top-seed Suns, including a 33-point blowout in Game 7. 

During the series, things got chippy between Luka Doncic and Devin Booker. This bad blood continued when the two teams faced off this past year, setting up an intriguing player rivalry between two of the league’s most gifted scorers. This matchup also features former Brooklyn Nets teammates Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving

While there’s no bad blood between the two stars, seeing former teammates square off is always exciting. This will be the first matchup between Durant and Irving since their respective trades. Both teams have incredible offensive firepower, which could lead to a close, high-scoring game. Perfect for the late-night slot.    

2. Boston Celtics vs Los Angeles Lakers – 5:00 p.m. ET

The Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers are the two most iconic franchises in league history. They also have the most iconic rivalry, making this the perfect primetime matchup on Christmas Day. While the rivalry isn’t as relevant compared to past years, it’s still special whenever these two teams face off. 

Additionally, this rivalry has been re-ignited during the LeBron James Lakers era, including two thrilling overtime games last season. Boston’s elite wing play and three-point shooting contrasts with the Lakers’ elite size and defense. Boston and Los Angeles are both early title favorites, setting up a competitive game between two of the league’s best. This could even be an early Finals preview. 

1. Golden State Warriors vs Denver Nuggets – 2:30 p.m. ET

A Golden State Warriors and Denver Nuggets matchup is compelling for several reasons. It sets up a matchup between the “kings” of the West for the past decade and the defending champs who are poised to take Golden State’s throne. 

This matchup also sets up a 2022 first-round playoff rematch, a series in which the Warriors beat a depleted Nuggets squad en route to their fourth NBA championship. The matchup features two of the game’s top superstars, Nikola Jokic and Stephen Curry. Both are extremely talented and entertaining stars in the league. 

Both teams have incredible shooting, passing, and offensive sets, making this matchup pure basketball bliss. This game projects to be incredibly entertaining and ultra-competitive. From both a watchability and narrative standpoint, this matchup is fantastic. 


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