Beyond the Key Episode of the week
By Chris Madden,
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays NBA fans. That’s right it’s that time of the year, the Christmas Day games are here and highlight some incredible matchups. Five teams showcase some of the most incredible athletes we have seen play the game. So let’s take a look at some of the match ups and what we have to look forward to on what already is a perfect day:
New Orleans Pelicans vs. Miami Heat
12:00pm on ESPN
If someone asked me a year ago what player I would want to build a franchise around, it would have been Anthony Davis. Why? He has it all; size, strength, agility, a great shot, defensive presence and leadership skills you want on your team. The Pelicans took 8th place in the playoffs last season, but don’t completely count them out of starring things up. A team with “sleeper players” such as; Tyreke Evans, Ish Smith, Eric Gordon, Jrue Holiday and Kendrick Perkins this team has put together a decent line up and looks to be a potential threat as they take on a changing Heat team.
The Miami Heat have seen ups and downs over the past few years, but Dwayne Wade has stuck it out through thick and thin, his protégé, Justice Winslow. An incredible baller out of Duke, this young man looks to be the future of Miami Heat basketball once Wade decides to move on from his career. With a line up full of talent consisting of: Chris Bosh, Luol Deng, Goran Dorgic, Gerald Green, Hassan Whiteside, and Chris “Bird Man” Anderson the Heat look to be rebuilding for another run at the Eastern Conference.
Chicago Bulls vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
2:30pm on ABC
This match up features two explosive teams loaded with all-stars and future all-time greats. The Bulls have a guard situation that some teams would dream of. Derrick Rose has been the face of the team for several years, but due to injury, Jimmy Butler has stepped into the leader role and hasn’t looked back. As well as two all-star guards the Bulls lineup is filled with names such as: Joakim Noah, Doug McDermott, Nikola Mirotic, Taj Gibson, Kirk Hinrich and Pau Gasol. This team is another Eastern Conference threat that seems to pack a bit of a punch as they currently sit 3 games back from 1st.
The Thunder are no strangers to big games or success though. With recent hiring of legendary Florida head coach Billy Donavan there seems to be a new spark in the Thunder locker room. Also with the dynamic duo of Russel Westbrook and Kevin Durant, every team they face must find some way to shut these two down. The supporting cast isn’t too bad either, Dion Waters, Steven Adams, Enes Canter, Serge Ibaka, and Dion Waiters are some of the names that make winning with the two superstars even easier.
Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Golden State Warriors
5:00pm on ABC
The matchup of the night, the NBA Finals rematch! That’s right make sure to eat dinner early or hope your family loves basketball because this game promises to be one of the biggest games of the season. Golden State is back from their long road trip which knocked them off their record setting winning streak but have gotten right back into stride. With the reigning MVP Steph Curry and several other all-star caliber players like Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Harrison Barnes, Andrew Bogut and Draymond Green the Warriors look to be a force to be reckoned with for quite some time.
But Cleveland has some bones of its own too pick. After an injury ridden, disappointing Finals finish the Cavs are back, and healthy. Kryie Irving has come back just in time to help LeBron James and company retain 1st place in the East. The Cavaliers have been playing consistently well and don’t look to be slowing up any time soon. This game will be the one to watch, guarantee things will get a little chippy and it will be tight without.
San Antonio Spurs vs. Houston Rockets
8:00pm on ESPN
The team that made the biggest offseason moves face off against the “Players MVP” and the Rockets later on during the night. Count on James Harden and company to come out firing early as the Spurs look to set their own pace with help from the two big men: LaMarcus Aldridge and Tim Duncan. The Spurs are stacked this season with Tony Parker still distributing the ball, and superstar Kawhi Leonard and others. San Antonio is quietly in 2nd place with a 23-5 record as well as holding a 7.5 game lead in the Southeastern Division.
The Rockets, after a letdown playoff appearance last year look to make a statement this season. So far, Houston hasn’t showed that they’re ready to compete for a title. They sit at .500 and are in 4th place in their division and have already gone through one coaching change. This game could be a bounce back game to start the New Year off the right way, but it all starts with the star James Harden. He has to find a way to lead this team and regain control of a talented but discipline lacking team.
Los Angeles Clippers vs. Los Angeles Lakers
The “Battle of LA” has gone through a bit of a change now that Kobe is beyond his prime, and the Clippers have stacked their team to compete in the Western Conference. LAC is full of all-star caliber players like Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin. All three lead the team in assists, FG percentage and points per game, respectively. This team, currently sitting second in the Pacific Division behind an unstoppable Golden State team, and are currently on a two game losing streak. This game is always a fun one to watch, however the Lakers have been quite a let-down, especially given that this is Kobe Bryant’s last season.
Kobe and company look to pick up a big win in the Staples Center over the Clippers, the real question is can this team rally around their star? Deangelo Russell is the soon to be face of the Laker’s franchise, that much we know. Kobe looks to leave his legacy in the best state as possible, and a win over what has come a bitter rival in the Clippers would be a season highlight for sure. Look for Kobe to do his thing, taking one on ones as often as possible and finding that impossible to block turn around every few possessions. Hopefully we will get a close game to wrap up an incredible line up of Christmas Day games but count on the Clippers outlasting the Lakers yet another time.