Christmas Day is to the NBA what Thanksgiving is to the NFL. Five matches from noon to midnight featuring the best teams and biggest stars in the league. It’s basketball heaven.
That is, if it happens according to plan.
Due to an explosion of positive COVID-19 tests in the league, some of these top teams are outnumbered and many stars are on health and safety protocols instead of on the pitch. ESPN reported on Tuesday that the 10 teams playing on Christmas have been told that playing times could be changed if COVID-19 issues force changes.
Nine games were rescheduled for Wednesday, according to Hashtagbasketball.com. This includes three Nets games and a Hawks game, both of which play on Christmas.
League health and safety protocol players include: Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, James Harden, Trae Young and Luka Doncic, according to the CBS Sports shopping list. All are scheduled to play on Christmas if they are allowed to do so.
With all of these contingencies and uptime issues, let’s get to the games.
IF Wilton jackson joins me as guest coach for this high-stakes Warriors-Suns meeting.
Season review: 49-46-1
Guest pickers: 32-58
Editor’s Note: All stats, records and odds are as of December 23.
Check out the latest NBA lines on SI Sportsbook
Time: 5 p.m. ET, ABC
Propagated: Warriors +3.5 (-110) | Suns -3.5 (-110)
Moneyline: Warriors (+138) | Suns (-163)
Total: Less than 227.5 (-118) | Over 227.5 (+100)
Injuries: Warriors G Andrew Wiggins â Out; Warriors G Jordan Poole â Out; Warriors F Andre Iguodola â Out; Warriors G Damion Lee â Out; Suns C Frank Kaminsky â Out
Three losses in December technically count as a setback for the Warriors after two losses in November. But they play like a favorite in the final. Steph Curry is unstoppable, Draymond Green is doing things Draymond Green in defense and Andrew Wiggins and Jordan Poole are doing everything asked of them as side scorers, although Wiggins and Poole may miss this game. Golden State’s last two losses have been on the road and both were nine points or more.
The home team have won every game of this season series so far.
Curry’s three-point shot gets the most focus, and for good reason, but it’s Golden State’s top-ranked defense that leads to such a big success.
The Warriors allow the fewest points (101 PPG) in the NBA and pair that elite defense with the No.4 offense (111.5 PPG).
The Suns are 2-0 since Devin Booker’s return from injury. He was injured in the first meeting between these two teams, a victory for the Suns, and missed the following weeks. He returned on December 19 and completed the two-game stat sheet, scoring 10 threes and grabbing 15 rebounds. Chris Paul’s expert playmaker and his league-leading 10 assists per game surely helped put Booker back on the offense.
Phoenix, like Golden State, ranks in the top five in terms of score (111.8 PPG) and points awarded (104.1 PPG). The third meeting of this possible Western Conference Finals preview means a lot to the battle for the best NBA record, which the Suns currently hold.
Kyle Wood’s bets:
Choice of spread: Warriors +3.5
I’ll jump on the Warriors to get points whenever I get the chance. Golden State has the second-best ATS (ATS) basketball record (19-10-2). Curry has individual dominance and the ability to make play to make up for the potential lack of his top two scoring wings. I think the Warriors are slowing the game down and keeping it tight, if they don’t get a straight win over their fiercest competition in the west.
Upper / Lower Choice: Under 227.5
Great offenses meet great defenses. Excellent defense prevailed in the last two clashes. With the likelihood that some of the top scorers in this game will be missing, I’m even more prone to go under that rather high point total.
Bets for guest coach Wilton Jackson:
Propagation choice: Suns -3.5
I enjoyed watching the Warriors return to a place of major importance – the pre-2019-20 season – even without Klay Thompson in roster as he draws closer to his return. The NBA is better when the Warriors are good. Steph Curry is also enjoying an MVP-caliber season. However, I choose Curry and the Warriors and go with the Suns in this electrifying splash of talent. Chris Paul, with all the skeptics and things he has faced in his career, is the catalyst that makes this young Suns team exciting to watch.
The Suns are building on another winning streak, entering Thursday with five straight wins. The Warriors will also be without Jordan Poole and Andrew Wiggins, the second and third top scorers as well as two of Golden State’s top defensemen, due to COVID-19 protocols. The Warriors’ defense could be limited by slowing down the trio of Devin Booker, DeAndre Ayton and Mikal Bridges and company, as well as not producing enough points to follow the game.
Upper / Lower Choice: Under 227.5
When the two teams first played in November, the Suns won that game with huge performances from Ayton, Paul and a strong defensive performance from Bridges, who kept Curry at 12 points. Phoenix won despite Booker’s injury.
When the Warriors claimed their victory three days later, Curry returned to early form of “Head Curry” with Wiggins and Green stepping up. Booker didn’t play.
When the Suns offense clicks with the use of the high pick-and-roll, Booker and his company hit punches and the defense is rambling and limits scoring opportunities. Curry, along with Green, Andre Iguodala and Juan Toscano-Anderson, would need to show incredible performances in this game to win. In the previous two games between the two teams the combined points were 200 and 214. If the Suns’ defense is strong in this game, and I think it will be, I really like the underside here.
Check out the latest SI Sportsbook odds
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