Christmas Lines Out … No Steph Curry for Warriors vs. Cavaliers

Matthew Jordan

Wednesday, December 20, 2017 2:23 PM UTC

Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2017 2:23 PM UTC

The marquee day of the NBA regular season each year is Christmas, and there are five intriguing matchups this year, albeit one missing a superstar.

Some NBA fans believe the season should be shortened some and begun on Christmas Day – that way the Association avoids the NFL’s regular season for the most part and all of college football’s. You may remember the 2011-12 season was delayed by a lockout and it did begin on Christmas with every team playing only 66 regular-season games that year. There was very little complaining. In fact, I don’t know why the NBA doesn’t start on Dec. 25 and run through late July considering the summer months are dead sports-wise until the NFL heads to training camp, but that’s a story for another day.

Here are the five Christmas Day games and their current BetOnline odds, subject to change due to injury, etc. Each team will wear special uniforms.

Noon ET on ESPN: 76ers at Knicks (-1)

Philadelphia likely will be favored by tipoff as long as superstar center Joel Embiid plays – which is never a sure thing with him. Knowing how Embiid likes the spotlight, there’s almost no way he misses this one barring injury. Philadelphia hasn’t played on Christmas Day since 2001. It’s the 52nd appearance on Christmas Day for the Knicks, by far the most of any franchise. That’s what happens when you play in America’s biggest media market. Believe it or not, this will be the first meeting of the season between the Knicks and 76ers.

3 PM ET on ABC: Cavaliers at Warriors (-7)

It’s the third straight Christmas matchup between these superpowers who have met in the previous three NBA Finals and are odds-on favorites on the NBA futures to make it a fourth straight come June (sorry Rockets and Celtics). The home team has won both Christmas matchups. The Warriors won 89-83 in 2015, and the Cavs won a thrilling 109-108 decision last year as Kyrie Irving hit the go-ahead jumper with 3.4 seconds left. Of course, no Irving this year as he’s in Boston. And no Steph Curry, either. He remains out with a badly sprained ankle suffered Dec. 4. He won’t even be evaluated again until after Dec. 25. Curry is averaging 26.3 points, 6.6 assists and 5.1 rebounds this season, although the Warriors are winning without him thanks in large part to Kevin Durant. Isaiah Thomas won’t be ready to make his Cavs debut, either.

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5:30 PM ET on ABC: Wizards at Celtics (-5)

These teams played a very heated Eastern Conference semifinal series last year, with Boston winning in seven games. The Celtics barely resemble that club with all the changes they have made, including the trade for Irving. The Wizards are largely the same team. Irving vs. John Wall!? Yes, please. You can tell the NBA really wants to build drama for these Christmas games because it’s the first meeting of the season between these two.

8 PM ET on ABC: Rockets at Thunder (+5)

It’s reigning NBA MVP Russell Westbrook – along with Paul George and Carmelo Anthony – against the current MVP favorite in James Harden. With the addition of Chris Paul, Houston has been the NBA’s best team thus far and generally is blowing people out (as of this writing, 18 double-digit wins). Except Paul might now miss a while after leaving Wednesday's loss to the Lakers -- which snapped Houston's 14-game winning streak -- with a strained left adductor. It’s the first meeting of the season between Houston and OKC, which has disappointed.

10:30 PM ET on TNT: Timberwolves at Lakers (+3.5)

Because this is on TNT, the NBA on TNT crew of Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Shaquille O'Neal will call the action, in addition to their traditional pregame, halftime and postgame coverage, live from Staples Center. It’s the first time they have all called a game together. That should be awesome. Minnesota is much improved with the offseason additions of Jimmy Butler, Jeff Teague, Taj Gibson and Jamal Crawford and will be a playoff team. The Lakers won’t, but you have the whole Lonzo Ball show. It’s the first meeting between these teams.

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