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Christmas in July

by Prez Ro
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MATTESON - WELL, IT's JULY AND I'm TALKING ABOUT CHRISTMAS.... YUP!!! When you think about Christmas what comes to mind?

Probably something along the lines of elaborately decorated trees, piles of gifts and endless amounts of wrapping paper, watching It's A Wonderful Life on Xmas Eve, one of the best meals you'll have all year, and quality time with those you love the most, as a kids disappointment cuz my parents forgot the toy I got needs batteries but I DIGRESS :)

The one thing missing from that list? That's right...some NBA basketball!

Since the 1940s, the NBA has featured games on Christmas Day. In 1983, those games started getting picked up on national TV.
ESPN and ABC split the games up among the day as NBA junkies across the world rejoiced. Hours of consecutive basketball on the most celebrated holiday of the year? Yes, please.

Most of the time, the scheduling masters of the Association do a great job putting forth elite teams and players at the most opportune times. Other than last year's Suns-Clippers blowout and the Heat-Knicks snooze fest, the eight games of the last two years have featured showdowns like Celtics-Lakers, Celtics-Magic, Spurs-Suns, and Mavs-Blazers, and players such as Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Brandon Roy, Dirk Nowitzki, and Dwyane Wade.

With the influx of new stars and the balance of power shifting dramatically between top teams in both conferences, the league has a plethora of directions they can go for this year's quintuple-header.
If Mr. Stern & Co. want an outside opinion, then here my four MUST SEE games that NBA fans everywhere would absolutely love to see on Dec. 25.

******HORS D'OEVRES***********
Denver Nuggets at New York Knicks (12:00, ESPN)
This year, the Knicks will be much improved (they have to be, don't they?). Maybe they won't capture the old mystique of the Garden, but with Amar'e Stoudemire, Raymond Felton, Anthony Randolph, Kelenna Azubuike, and Danilo Gallinari, they've got players that were bred to play in Mike D'Antoni's system.

On the other hand, the Nuggets trot in with 'Melo and Chauncey Billups, two guys who always play better on a bigger and brighter stage.

Orlando Magic at Oklahoma City Thunder (3:00, ESPN)
Lost in all of the rampant discussion over the vast improvement of the Bulls and Heat is the Orlando Magic, who may be the most forgotten about team in the league.

Heading into last year's Eastern Conference Finals, the Magic were picked by many as  the best team in the league. The problem? The Boston Celtics.

One of their main issues last year against Boston was that Kendrick Perkins and the rest of the Celtics were able to bully Dwight Howard and make him play one-on-one...and he couldn't make them pay.
However, against teams that have no viable options at center, Howard can dominate. How great would it be to see them travel to the Midwest and take on the NBA's best scorer (and most likable team), Kevin Durant and the OKC Thunder.

After the collusion and reprehensible collusion that certain stars performed this off-season, Howard and Durant are the NBA's two most engaging superstars. Why not feature them on a national stage right as a follow-up to what is most likely going to be the highest rated game of the regular season?

Need a few more reasons? OK. How about the gritty play of Nelson and Russell Westbrook battling at point guard?

Boston Celtics at Chicago Bulls (5:30, ABC)
This is arguably the most compelling and fascinating match up from a pure basketball standpoint. With so many intriguing and compelling subplots, it's no wonder these two teams often bring out the best in each other.

Let's start back in 2009. Admittedly, it was two years ago and there have since been several significant roster moves from both teams. But the Celts-Bulls opener was one of the most exciting first-round playoff series of all time.


Five games decided by three points or less.


Four overtime games (seven overtime periods total).

Three iconic games: Ray Allen's GW three-pointer in Game Two, Derrick Rose's near triple-double in a double-overtime Game Four, and a triple-overtime Game Six with Joakim Noah's breakaway dunk and Rose's blocked shot.

Be sure to visit...

for action shots taken during this event

"Captured the Art of Sport in Motion"

Last year's games didn't match that kind of drama at all, but only one of the games had any real significance (two were very early in the season when the Bulls struggled mightily). When the two met on Apr. 13 with Chicago's playoff hopes on the line, it was a competitive, hard-fought affair, with the Bulls pulling away late for a 101-93 lead and guaranteed their spot in the postseason.

And as far as position battles go, these might be two of the most evenly-matched teams in the league.

At point guard, it's Rose vs. Rajon Rondo, two of the best dribble-drive, set-up players in the league (though probably not two guys we'd want to see in a jump-shooting contest).

At shooting guard, it's Allen vs. Kyle Korver, two of the elite spot-up, catch-and-shoot players...not to mention guys that have mastered the art of moving without the ball.

Inside, there's Kevin Garnett vs. Carlos Boozer, two relatively athletic power forwards (ok, maybe KG isn't that athletic anymore) that can spread the floor with their mid-range jumper and craftily set up defenders in the paint with their turnaround game (but KG is a much better one-on-one defender).

And don't forget about two of the premier energy, spark-plug guys in the league: Nate Robinson and Joakim Noah.

Plus, there's a few other clashes, like the "mentor vs. protege" battle of Doc Rivers against his former assistant Tom Thibodeau, who will drill his tough defensive philosophy into Chicago's minds.

And this matchup is a classic representation of a changing of the guard—the old-school, defensive-oriented, veteran Celtics against the up-and-coming, athletic, energetic, youthful Bulls. On any given day, this should be the highlight game of the day and probably be featured in primetime.

Miami Heat at Los Angeles Lakers (8:00, ABC)
Our Christmas Day finale rarely provides a memorable battle. They'll meet twice in the regular season. Let this (Dec. 25) game be the first matchup (ABC), and the rematch in Miami can be played on Jan. 17 (TNT, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day). Done and done.

No overextended breakdown and reasoning for wanting to watch this game is needed. Every basketball fan on the planet will want to see if the veteran Lakers can defend their throne against D-Wade, Chris Bosh, and the rest of the Heat.








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