Friday, December 21, 2012

Friday Roundtable: Merry Christmas from the NBA

Wade. Howard. Bryant. James. Durant. These are some of the NBA's Christmas Day stars. (Getty Images)

BDD's Friday Roundtable is a weekly discussion among three of our writers on a trending NBA or college basketball topic.

This week's question: The NBA season is closer to its halfway mark than it is to the opening tip-off. Each year, the Association schedules marquee match-ups for Christmas Day. This year's slate of holiday games includes a rematch of the 2012 Finals; Boston in Brooklyn; Knicks/Lakers in Hollywood; the Rockets visiting the Bulls; and the Clippers hosting the Nuggets. Which game will  be on your TV?

Shawn Deegan: 
It’s that time of year again. Lights on the tree, presents being exchanged, and basketball brought to the front of the sporting world. With the NBA taking center stage, there will be a handful of games to make sure you see. However, for my money, the one game that is a must watch is the Heat vs. the Thunder. Now, normally I’m a patron for the small-market, under the radar teams who don’t normally get to share the spotlight with the big boys. However, on the big stage, it’s all about the match-ups of the best against the best, and there are no better players than Lebron James and Kevin Durant. Both will play the three-spot in this game, so the odds we see these two square off one-on-one are high. Durant is one of, if not the elite scorer in the game, while Lebron has become arguably the best all-around player in the NBA. Both bring contrasting styles of play and sensational talent that is unparalleled. Any time two of the best meet, it’s a good time to watch, but adding the spotlight of the Christmas Day game should elevate the drama to another level.  

Kyle Davis: 
Knicks/Lakers easily has the most storylines and drama to surely make for a great game, the veteran Celtics taking on a renewed Nets team should be good basketball and who doesn't like a Finals rematch? I would like to cop out and say all three of them but since I have to pick, I'll take the Thunder/Heat matchup. No team is better than the Thunder (21-5) right now, who were on a 12-game winning streak before Thursday's loss to Minnesota. The Heat aren't playing too poorly either, especially at home, where they are 12-2.

This game isn't lacking star power either. This is the battle of Big Three's, and the Thunder's Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka are playing just as well as James, Wade and Bosh. Durant is scoring at will (nearly 28 points per game), while Westbrook is still finding plenty of shots. It's starting to look like Wade's prime is leaving him (although that's still with him averaging nearly 20 ppg), but LeBron doesn't look to be slowing down anytime soon. Not sure you'll find more pure talent from top to bottom in any other Christmas game, so you know there will be plenty of highlights.

The Thunder are not going to take this game lightly. Durant and Co. have been pegged to win a title at some point, and the Heat took away their first chance last year. OKC wants nothing more than to beat Miami any chance it gets, because Durant and this team are great competitors, and they know who is standing in their way of a title. Yet the Heat still have more to prove ("not one, not two, not three ...").  Both teams are going to want this one for Christmas.

Alex Skov:  
Thunder/Heat is tough to pass up, and, for my money, Rajon Rondo is one of the most exciting players in the NBA right now, but the most intriguing Christmas Day match-up to me is the first game in Staples Center. The New York Knicks are 19-6, but five of those losses have come on the road. New York has allowed opponents to go over the century mark in three of those losses, including giving up a whopping 131 points to the Rockets during a Thanksgiving hangover. The Lakers are under .500 overall, but 8-6 at home. Steve Nash should be back in the starting line-up, which may not solve all of the Lakers' woes (especially on the defensive end), but his presence will make the Knicks' defense show a level of respect that LA hasn't gotten during Gatsby's time away due to injury.

The first meeting between these two anchors of their respective coasts ended with New York winning by less than 10 in Madison Square Garden on Dec. 13. Carmelo Anthony, looking like the early MVP candidate that he is, outdueled Kobe Bryant in that contest by scoring 31 points. While Bryant's attempt to save his team ended with the personal victory of a double-double (31 points, 10 rebounds), Kobe's never been one to take things lightly. The tension between Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni and Anthony led to D'Antoni losing his job in New York, a destination Nash considered as a free agent this summer.

The storyline of Kevin Durant and his ever-improving supporting cast taking on the world's best all-around basketball player and his All-Star teammates is an obvious one, but there are multiple plot twists in this Knicks/Lakers saga that make the drama even more appealing. It's not like Anthony, Bryant, Nash, Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard are bad at basketball, either. There's an outside (read: across the street, past the city limits and over state lines) chance that former D'Antoni and Nash partner Amar'e Stoudemire will be healthy enough to suit up for the Knicks, too.

What was is that D'Antoni said in his first press conference for his new head coaching gig? “If we're not averaging 110 or 115 points per game, then we need to talk"? The Lakers aren't living up to that statement, but no one knows how to run D'Antoni's offense better than Nash.

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