TV programming, stories, everything to know

Matt Eppers



It is said that the NBA season doesn’t really start until Christmas. This is almost literally true this year, with the 2020-21 campaign just a few days ago, as the league prepares for its annual holiday showcase.

The NBA is celebrating its 73rd year of games on Christmas Day. The league began to be played on December 25, 1947, its second season. Since then, there have been games every year, with the only exception of the 1998-99 season shortened by the blockade.

While there are unfortunately no fans in the arenas on Friday to participate in the action, the NBA holiday festivities continue with a five-game schedule featuring some of the best teams in the league and the sport’s biggest stars.

Here’s everything you need to know about this year’s Christmas games:

Pelicans in the heat (ET noon, ESPN)

The first game of the day features the Christmas debut of the New Orleans phenomenon, Zion Williamson. The Pelicans are making their second consecutive appearance at Christmas. Williamson lost last year’s game when Brandon Ingram hit the record for three 3s on Christmas Day, leading New Orleans to victory over Denver.

The Heat fell on their debut, but coach Erik Spoelstra intends to remain undefeated on Christmas Day. He has 7-0 in his career, while Miami is the best in the NBA by 10-2 of all time.

Warriors at Bucks (14:30 ET, ABC)

Giannis Antetokounmpo and the new Bucks are looking for their first win of the season after losing a crushing debut in the last second. Milwaukee plays for Christmas for the third year in a row, but is the host for the first time since 1968.

Steph Curry and the Warriors are still adjusting to their own rotation changes amid Klay Thompson’s continued absence, making this intriguing showdown of teams trying to build chemistry from the start.

Nets at Celtics (5 pm ET, ABC)

If a game has ever needed fans, this is it. A year after leaving Boston, Kyrie Irving makes his long-awaited return in the regular season. After a declaration victory on the opening night, Irving and Kevin Durant are back on the big stage against another candidate for the Eastern Conference.

The Celtics also scored a big victory in their debut, beating the Bucks in Jayson Tatum’s 3-point win. Boston’s young star duo Tatum and Jaylen Brown will take an initial test against two stars with championship experience at Durant and Irving.


Bold NBA predictions: Can LeBron James win the MVP at 36?

SportsPulse: USA TODAY Sports’ Mark Medina and Jeff Zillgitt make some bold predictions for what must be an unprecedented and unpredictable 2020-21 season.

SportsPulse, USA TODAY

Mavericks at the Lakers (8 pm ET, ABC / ESPN)

LeBron James faces Luka Doncic in the most important game of the day. James, the four-time MVP and four-time champion, will play his 15th game on the Christmas day of his career, the second behind Kobe Bryant (16). Doncic, a supposed future MVP and champion, is making his Christmas debut.

While fans expect their clash of generations to take center stage, James and Doncic are just hoping to win after the Lakers and Mavericks missed the season opener.

Clippers on the Nuggets (10:30 pm Eastern Time, ESPN)

The program ends with perhaps the juiciest confrontation of the day. Three months after the embarrassing 3-1 loss in the playoffs, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and the Clippers meet Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray and the Nuggets again in a rematch earlier in the season.

The Clippers had a difficult victory over the Lakers in their debut, while they continue to try to smooth out any lingering chemistry problems. The Nuggets lost a savage in their debut with a thunderous striker.

Follow Matt Eppers on Twitter @meppers_.