The NBA has served up another tasty quintuple-header for the holiday as the second season of COVID continues – no one quite knowing for sure which games will be played on which night (Oklahoma City vs. Houston was postponed Wednesday because the Rockets did not have enough players available). So let’s just keep our fingers crossed that the five on the Dec. 25 schedule go down as planned.
Here’s a lookahead at all of them, with the relevant wagering angles.
Pelicans at Heat – 12 p.m. ET
We all get a post-breakfast serving of Zion after seeing what Santa brought us, and we are seeing Williamson get a full run under coach Stan Van Gundy – although Brandon Ingram (one rebound shy of a triple-double Wednesday night) may end up being more important to this team’s success. The Pelicans had a huge third quarter against Toronto to win their opener, while the Heat got outscored by 10 in the final period to lose their opener against Orlando. This is Van Gundy’s first nationally televised appearance since taking over the head coaching job, and his rotation was short in his opener. Seven guys played most of the minutes, with J.J. Redick and Josh Hart making big contributions off the bench. Do not underestimate Van Gundy’s ability to get the most out of his team every single night (or afternoon, as is the case here). Erik Spoelstra’s teams tend to run hot and cold in the early season.
Christmas special: The Pelicans remain massive outsiders to win the championship, with the best price +8500 at FanDuel Sportsbook.
Warriors at Bucks – 2:30 p.m. ET
You watched Giannis miss that final potential game-tying free throw with 0.4 seconds left against Boston on Wednesday night, and it immediately make you wonder why this guy got a super-max. Super-studs are supposed to make those shots and force overtime. Golden State, meanwhile, is coming off a crushing opening night loss to Brooklyn and is spending Christmas Eve in Milwaukee – where it is snowy, windy and freezing cold today. At least that will help keep them in their hotel rooms and thus not violate COVID protocols, which are showing they are going to be a major factor as the season progresses. We will all get our second look at James Wiseman, who is the consensus second choice at sportsbooks to be the Rookie of the Year, and we’ll all watch whether Giannis chokes again, which should drop him in the NBA futures market, where he is second behind Luka Doncic for MVP.
Christmas special: Khris Middleton is +3400 at PointsBet to be the high scorer out of everyone playing on Christmas Day.
Nets at Celtics – 5 p.m. ET
This will be the first game back in Boston for Kyrie Irving, who wanted to be a Celtic forever until he didn’t. Irving would have been clobbered by the crowd at TD Garden in Boston, except there will be no crowd at TD Garden in Boston because of the pandemic. How that impacts Kyrie remains to be seen, but he was extraordinary in the first quarter on opening night against Golden State as the Nets dropped 40 on the Warriors in the first quarter. If Irving stays that aggressive and the Nets continue to be that good, it is not out of the question that Irving gets MVP consideration.
Christmas special: If you like Kyrie for MVP he is available at +8000 at DraftKings Sportsbook, with the odds much shorter at every other book. If your tastes run to Jayson Tatum, who dropped 30 on the Bucks and banked in the game-winning 3-pointer, his best MVP futures odds are at FanDuel Sportsbook at +2000.
Mavericks at Lakers – 8:10 p.m. ET
Doncic’s MVP odds remain more or less the same this morning after he failed to drop triple-double No. 1 last night in a loss to the Phoenix Suns, who were back to bubble form as they covered the 1.5-point spread (although the teams fell 24.5 points short of a ridiculously high over/under). Lest we forget, Phoenix went 8-0 in the bubble but missed the playoffs, and while Chris Paul did not have the greatest stat line, his leadership down the stretch was what SportsCenter was highlighting after the game. As for the Lakers, they never led on opening night against the Clippers, but let’s also not forget that they lost to the Clippers on opening night a season ago, and that really didn’t end up mattering, did it?
Christmas special: LeBron James tends to play well on Christmas games, and he should be especially stoked to go up against Doncic. You can get James at +1000 in the “Who Will Be Highest Scorer on Christmas” special at PointsBet.
Clippers at Nuggets – 10:30 p.m. ET
This game has the lowest over/under of the day and features the only player, Nikola Jokic, to record a triple-double in this young season (The Joker had 29 points, 15 rebounds and 14 assists in an overtime loss to the Kings.) Keep in mind that Doncic’s propensity to record triple-doubles is one of the main reasons why is the MVP favorite, but Jokic does the same thing regularly while playing point center for the Nuggets. Denver would likely have to finish in the top 2 in the West for Jokic to get serious MVP consideration. On the other side of the ledger, Paul George was the best player on the court stat-wise in the opener against the Lakers, scoring 33 on 13-of-18 shooting. He is often thought of as a secondary star behind Kawhi Leonard on that team, but if he ends up having a better year and the Clippers finish No. 1 in the West, George could be the MVP.
Christmas special: George’s best MVP odds are +10000 at BetMGM.