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NBA Christmas Day preview: 5-game slate including Celtics-Lakers

While the new In-Season Tournament was designed to boost the importance of the NBA regular season, there's no more important fixtures on the regular season schedule than on Christmas Day.

As usual, the NBA has five games on the big day, offering 12 straight hours of basketball action. 

There are five showpiece clashes, featuring big names, title hopefuls and the reigning champions. Let's take a look over each of the five encounters. 

Bucks hope to shine in the Garden

WhoMilwaukee Bucks @ New York Knicks
When12:00 PM ET, Monday, December 25
WhereMadison Square Garden, New York, NY
How to watchESPN
OddsMIL Bucks -3.0, NY Knicks +125 ML

No matter what state the Knicks are in, the NBA can't seem to resist a trip to New York on Christmas. Luckily, they are in great shape ahead of the NBA's first game Christmas Day against the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Knicks are fifth in the Eastern Conference and on course for consecutive top-six finishes. Jalen Brunson is turning into a household name - if he's not yet there already - and the Knicks will hope to cut the gap to the second-placed Bucks.

Milwaukee are a -150 favorite in that visit to the Big Apple. The Bucks haven't been stellar on their travels this term with a 5-5 away record, but neutral fans will surely hope to see big displays from Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard. 

Struggling Warriors underdogs in Denver

WhoGolden State Warriors @ Denver Nuggets
When2:30 PM ET, Monday, December 25
WhereBall Arena, Denver, CO
How to watchABC, ESPN
OddsDEN Nuggets -5.0, GS Warriors +150 ML

When this clash was announced back in the summer, it was likely seen as one of the premier Western Conference matchups. Things have taken a turn since then, with the Golden State Warriors outside the Play-In spots and missing the suspended Draymond Green.

Defending champions the Denver Nuggets remain a title contender and they're third in the West standings. Pitting the champions against a box office player like Steph Curry should ensure this is a captivating clash regardless of the Dubs' struggles.

Curry has been stellar of late and the Warriors will hope for a repeat as they chase an upset in Colorado. 

Old rivals clash in primetime slot

WhoBoston Celtics @ Los Angeles Lakers
When5:00 PM ET, Monday, December 25
WhereCrypto.com Arena, Los Angeles, California
How to watchABC, ESPN
OddsBOS Celtics -1.5, LA Lakers +105 ML

NBA's Christmas offering always tends to peak in the middle and that's no different this year, with the Boston Celtics heading to Los Angeles to meet the Lakers.

The two most successful franchises in league history lock horns once again, with the Lakers recently adding the first-ever NBA Cup to their trophy cabinet. However, they haven't kicked on as expected from that victory, losing five of their following six.

The Celtics are -125 on the Money Line for a golden LA Christmas. They've looked like the league's standout side all season, with concerns over their lack of depth largely fading away. 

With the best record in the Eastern Conference, the Celtics can add to a strong away record with a victory in California. 

Can red-hot Embiid down the Heat?

WhoPhiladelphia 76ers @ Miami Heat
When8:00 PM ET, Monday, December 25
WhereKaseya Center, Miami, FL
How to watchESPN
OddsMIA Heat -1.5, PHI 76ers +105 ML

The penultimate Christmas clash sees the Philadelphia 76ers heading for a South Beach Christmas with a visit to the Miami Heat. The pair were considered to have been left behind by the Bucks and Celtics' summer moves, but they both have asserted themselves as Eastern Conference contenders.

The Heat return to the Christmas mix after their second NBA Finals run in three years, while the Sixers hired championship-winning coach Nick Nurse in the summer. Nurse has quickly improved last season's MVP Joel Embiid, who leads the league in points-per-game yet again.

Embiid is now the +150 favorite to retain his MVP title, but his side are slight +105 ML underdogs in this clash. However, their star man is playing probably the best basketball of his career, making the Sixers hard to oppose.

Read more: 2023/24 NBA MVP Race

A Christmas feud finale

WhoDallas Mavericks @ Phoenix Suns
WhereFootprint Center, Phoenix, AZ
When10:30 PM ET, Monday, December 25
How to watchESPN
OddsPHX Suns -4.0, DAL Mavericks +150 ML

If you were hoping to end Christmas Day with some festive cheer from the NBA, think again. 

The final clash pits an improved Dallas Mavericks side against the Phoenix Suns, a rematch from the 2022 Western Conference semi-finals.

The bad temper from the Mavs' surprise Game 7 win in Arizona in that series has lingered ever since. Expect a repeat of that in this star-studded Christmas finale.

Luka Doncic continues to press his MVP case playing next to Kyrie Irving while the Suns are set to miss one of their big three with Bradley Beal out, so they'll have to do with the pairing of Kevin Durant and Devin Booker.

A Durant/Kyrie reunion should be interesting after their Brooklyn departure earlier this year. Meanwhile, the tension between Doncic and Booker should prove entertaining.

Odds mentioned in this article were correct at the time of writing and are subject to change.

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