On Christmas Day of 2018 NBA fans got what they thought might be a treat with the LeBron James led Los Angeles Lakers facing the then champions, Golden State Warriors.
Both teams combined offered three NBA Finals MVP’s (James, Iguodala, and Durant) and a number of former and current All-Stars.
Six months prior, LeBron James had completed in a losing effort for Cleveland, his eighth consecutive trip to the NBA Finals with two teams.
Golden State was six months away from their fifth consecutive NBA Finals appearance and hopefully their third consecutive title.
Both teams disappointed themselves and their fanbase on Christmas Day as a James groin pull would ruin the Lakers chances of making the Playoffs and threatening Golden State’s grip on the Western Conference.
A series of early-round Playoff injuries to DeMarcus Cousins, Andre Iguodala, and Kevin Durant wrecked Golden State’s championship aspirations.
If this gift of a game on Christmas Day was to be some sort of foreshadowing of a Lakers vs Warriors rivalry, it did not work out that way. It was also a blowout of a game as the Lakers won 127-101.
For 2019, the schedule makers have created matchups on Christmas Day between the Raptors and Celtics, the Bucks and 76ers, Warriors vs Rockets and Clippers vs Lakers.
The Christmas Day schedule should be highlighted by the Lakers and Clippers game, but with Toronto no longer featuring Kawhi Leonard (now with Clippers) and the Warriors decimated by injuries and losing Durant in free agency (Nets), the holiday schedule is not as intriguing or exciting as one might first think.
Here is a look at three games that should have been scheduled for Christmas Day.
#3 Indiana Pacers v Milwaukee Bucks (Scheduled for December 22nd, 2019)
This is a matchup that would hold more intrigue and excitement for NBA fans on Christmas Day. This game could have replaced the matchup between the Raptors and the Celtics.
While Toronto and Boston are bigger media markets,the Celtics had a let down of a season in 2019 and don’t deserve the hype on Christmas Day. While Toronto won the NBA Title in 2019, their roster is minus two key starters via free agency in Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green.
The Raptors don’t figure to be a team better than fourth in the East in 2019/20. However, Indiana was fifth in the East last season and could have finished higher except for an injury to Oladipo. Should he be healthy in 2019, Pacers figures to be among the East’s Top 4 teams.
Their December 22nd, 2019 opponent, the Milwaukee Bucks were the best team in the East in 2019 (Regular Season) after winning 60 games and feature the leagues reigning MVP in Giannis Antetokounmpo.
They also had the Raptors on the ropes in the Eastern Conference Final taking a 2-0 series lead before losing four straight games to the eventual champions. The Bucks deserve the recognition and spotlight for Christmas Day.
#2 Denver Nuggets v Houston Rockets (Scheduled for December 31st, 2019)
The Houston Rockets do have a Christmas Day matchup against the Golden State Warriors. However, while the Warriors will be competitive with D’Angelo Russell joining the team in a sign and trade coming over from New Jersey, The Warriors rosters have a lost of stars like Andre Iguodala and Kevin Durant during the off-season. Klay Thompson is also out with a knee injury.
There have been several other roster changes that create unknowns concerning the quality of play the Warriors will provide.
As for the Rockets, they just added Russell Westbrook this off-season to their roster and he should be an improvement over Chris Paul.
The Rockets who finished fourth in the Western Conference in 2019 are likely to be a Top 4 team again this season. In 2019, James Harden had a record streak for 30-plus point games and was close to winning a second straight MVP award.
If this Christmas Day matchup featured the Rockets opponents as the Nuggets it would be a great game to watch. The Nuggets were second overall in the West with 54 wins in 2019 and have a plethora of good young talent highlighted by Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic.
#1 Portland Trail Blazers v Los Angeles Clippers (Scheduled for December 12th, 2019)
Once again, just because LA is a large media market it does not mean they deserve the spotlight on the holiday schedule. This applies to the Lakers, who were not even a playoff team in 2019.
If anything, the Clippers who were eighth in the West and have now added stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George to a solid roster. The Portland Trail Blazers who finished third in the West with 53 wins and deserve to get some attention.
First, based on the 2019 free agency and trade transactions it's clear that the Clippers added the best talent to their roster. Further, they did it by bringing in Leonard and George to their team.
In comparison, the Lakers had to sign a whole bunch of players from Danny Green to DeMarcus Cousins, who recently suffered an ACL injury. These players n addition to the trade for Anthony Davis, so how do all these new players fit together?
As for Portland, they were, in addition to the third-best team out west in 2019, a handful for the Western Conference Finalists Golden State to deal with.
Even though they were swept in the Western Final by the Warriors, in three of the four games Portland had double-digit second-half leads.
Portland also features a great shooting guard combo in Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. The Trailblazers still have the ability to be an elite competitor in the West even with all the changes that came to be this off-season.