Christmas in 2020 will bring basketball fans five excellent matchups: Pelicans at Heat (12 p.m. ET), Warriors at Bucks (2:30 p.m.), Nets at Celtics (5 p.m.), Mavericks at Lakers (8 p.m.) and Clippers at Nuggets (10:30 p.m.). In order to prepare you for the slate, here is a betting guide with NBA Christmas odds, sportsbook offers and matchup breakdowns to serve as a starting point for your research.
Christmas basketball sportsbook offers
Sportsbooks will be unwrapping several exciting offers and odds boosts for Christmas Day. For example, DraftKings Sportsbook is running a “Santa Klaw” odds boost on Kawhi Leonard to get over 2.5 steals against the Nuggets (Was +260, Now +290).
NBA Christmas odds
New Orleans Pelicans at Miami Heat – 12 p.m. ET
Miami comes off a spirited run to the NBA Finals to open on Dec. 23 against Orlando, and then take on the Pelicans to kick off the Christmas slate. New Orleans was horrible in the Bubble with a -3.9 net rating over eight games. Miami, obviously, excelled en route to an ECF title and brought back all of its key pieces aside from swing forward Jae Crowder.
The Pelicans biggest addition is Steven Adams, who will help shore up a defense that coughed up the fourth-most PPG (117.1) last season. Yet he doesn’t match up well against ultra-versatile center Bam Adebayo and Bam can do a good job defending Zion Williamson on the other end. It will be interesting to see how Eric Spoelstra plays with those matchups down low and if he decides to start Meyers Leonard at center.
The biggest downgrade for New Orleans is Eric Bledsoe starting over Jrue Holiday. Bledsoe is a solid defender, but won’t provide the same stabilizing leadership on offense. The Pelicans played at the second-fastest pace in the NBA last season and the Heat were 27th in pace. New Orleans averaged the second-most offensive RPG and Miami held opponents to the second-fewest offensive RPG.
Give Miami a significant edge in this matchup since they should have far more cohesion early in the season than a young team playing under new HC Stan Van Gundy.
Golden State Warriors at Milwaukee Bucks – 2:30 p.m. ET
The Bucks received an early Christmas present with Giannis Antetokounmpo signing a Super Max contract extension. There will no longer be a cloud hanging over the franchise all season and the Bucks can just concentrate on basketball.
Things aren’t as rosy these days for the Warriors, who lost Klay Thompson (Achilles) for the year and struggled mightily without his services last season. They ranked 26th in defensive rating and 30th in offensive rating with Steph Curry (hand) also missing considerable time. Draymond Green appeared to be in decline and the rest of the roster is incredibly young. When Thompson misses games over the past three seasons, the Warriors average just 103.5 PPG with a -3.1 net rating. They’re 11-14 in that span, although they did go 17-14 against the spread (ATS) on the road last season.
Curry should have a big game against a Bucks team that yielded the fourth-most 3PTA (38.9) and 3PTM (13.8) last season. However, adding Jrue Holiday will help Milwaukee shore up that deficiency to an extent. Holiday helped hold Curry to relatively modest averages of 24.5 PPG and 3.5 APG in the 2018 WCF Semifinals.
Milwaukee went 19-12 ATS as home favorites last year, but went 12-19 ATS against non-conference foes.
Brooklyn Nets at Boston Celtics – 5 p.m. ET
Boston opened the season with a win over Milwaukee, while Brooklyn beat the Warriors on Dec. 22. The Celtics were 9-6 last season when playing with a rest disadvantage and 40-21 when playing on one day of rest.
The Nets are a completely different team with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving healthy. Irving won’t have to deal with jeers from a non-existent crowd in his long-awaited return to Boston. He should, however, see plenty of Marcus Smart – who lifted the Celtics to a 99.2 defensive rating when he was on the floor last year. Jaylen Brown continues to improve defensively and is capable of potentially containing Durant.
The key matchup to watch might be the battle on the boards between Jarrett Allen and Tristan Thompson. The Celtics have seemingly solved a glaring weakness by adding TT, another fantastic defender with a 13.6% offensive rebounding rate in his career. Brooklyn ranked second in defensive rebounding and allowed the seventh-fewest offensive RPG (10.6) last season.
New Nets coach Steve Nash will have to learn quickly to crack Boston’s second-ranked scoring defense (107.3 PPG allowed last year). But the Nets overall talent should shine through in an early statement over a Celtics team that is likely still fatigued from their run in the Bubble and will be without Kemba Walker (knee) early in the season.
Dallas Mavericks at Los Angeles Lakers – 8 p.m. ET
The Mavericks should be able to cover the spread against a team that just won the title in October and is unlikely to bring the same intensity in December. Luka Doncic averaged 25.5 PPG, 9 RPG, and 9.8 APG with a 35.8% usage rate in four meetings with the Lakers last season. The Mavs will be without Kristaps Porzingis (knee) but Dwight Powell (Achilles) is a full go to open the season and Dallas should be far better defensively with Josh Richardson and James Johnson added to the roster.
The Mavs forced OT in a Nov. 1, 2019 meeting with the Lakers and beat the Lakers, 114-100, in a meeting on Dec. 1 last year. The Lakers won the next two meetings rather handily in 2019-20, but those early-season lapses are a clear indicator of how a LeBron-led team functions while treating the season like a marathon rather than a sprint.
Los Angeles Clippers at Denver Nuggets – 10:30 p.m. ET
The Clippers absolutely collapsed while allowing Denver to overcome multiple double-digit deficits and erase a 3-1 series disadvantage to steal a trip to the WCF finals. With Tyronn Lue taking over as HC, the Clips should find motivation to exact some revenge here. They’ve been criticized for losing Montrezl Harrell in free agency, but added Serge Ibaka and he’s a much better option to deploy against Nikola Jokic. Ibaka was likely acquired by LA with The Joker specifically in mind.
Jamal Murray averaged just 13.3 PPG in three regular season meetings with the Clips, then popped for 22.6 PPG in the seven-game playoff series between these teams. Both Murray and Paul George received contract extensions from their respective teams and we could see PG step up as a result with the intent of containing Murray.
The Nuggets lost Jerami Grant in free agency and his absence will be felt as they try to game-plan against Kawhi Leonard. The Klaw averaged 24.3 PPG, 8.6 RPG, and 5.9 APG in the WCF semis against the Nuggets last year and could feast on young Michael Porter Jr and/or Will Barton, who is likely to show some rust in his first action since March.
The Clippers went 48-23 in non-division games last season and were 16-6 straight up when listed as favorites on the road. The Nuggets were 16-22 when listed as underdogs last year.
With a negligible spread, the Clippers are a solid bet to pay off for gamblers on Christmas Day.
How to watch Christmas Day basketball
Christmas Day games will be televised by ESPN and ABC.
This season’s Christmas games will air as follows:
- Heat vs. Pelicans: 12 p.m. ET, ESPN
- Bucks vs. Warriors: 2:30 p.m. ET, ABC
- Celtics vs. Nets: 5 p.m. ET, ABC
- Lakers vs. Mavericks: 8 p.m. ET, ESPN/ABC
- Nuggets vs. Clippers: 10:30 p.m., ESPN
Games are also viewable on a number of authorized streaming services, such as the ESPN APP, Twitch, PlayStation Vue, Hulu, Sling and YouTube TV for those who don’t have cable or satellite programming subscriptions. However, subscriptions to these streaming services are required.
How to bet NBA Christmas Day games like a sharp
Christmas Day NBA games are high profile matchups that usually bring the best out of stars on both sides. Superstars rarely sit out Christmas games and the matchups often pit rivals against one another. Betting on teams that have a revenge narrative (such as the Clippers against the Nuggets in this year’s slate) is a good way to bank on the importance of these holiday games.
In 2020, these games are just opening the season. This creates a different angle to consider when backing a veteran team like the Lakers versus a younger Mavericks team that has more to prove in the first week of their season. Offense is usually slower to warm up early in the season and team chemistry could present issues after shorter training camps. Betting the Under on a few of the Christmas Day matchups is a potential sharp move.
In general, identify matchups where one team might not play with as much intensity or coordination due to a variety of factors. Exploit individual matchups where a team isn’t well prepared to stop a great player, and take some proposition bets on their action.