There’s no bigger day on the NBA’s regular-season docket than Christmas.
Monday has a five-game slate that features all the league’s top teams and biggest names, likely including the 2017-18 MVP, Rookie of the Year and Coach of the Year. All five games are on national television, starting in New York City and ending in Los Angeles.
Here’s your guide on who to pick in Contest General action
Cleveland Cavaliers at Golden State Warriors
On paper, this seems like a game that Cleveland is poised to take.
The Cavaliers have won 19 of their last 21 games, playing the brand of basketball everyone expected from them. They’re third in field goal percentage, fourth in scoring and only the Rockets have made more three-pointers than Cleveland.
LeBron James is having an MVP season, with his highest scoring average since 2009-10, as well as the most assists and highest field goal and three-point percentage of his career.
But, offense has never been Cleveland’s problem against Golden State – it’s always come down to getting stops. Last year the two teams met seven times (including the playoffs), with Golden State averaging 120.3 points.
The Warriors have been banged up recently from top to bottom, but they’re still averaging a league-best 116.1 points. Meanwhile, the Cavs rank 23rd in opponent scoring and 27th in defensive rating (points per 100 possessions).
For as hot as Cleveland has been, none of its most recent victims have been Golden State, Boston, Houston, San Antonio or Toronto — teams among the league’s best. This is an opportunity for James and company to get a signature road win against the squad they’ll likely see in the NBA Finals, should they advance that far.
Houston Rockets at Oklahoma City Thunder
On November 29, Oklahoma City had just lost back-to-back games to Dallas and Orlando, thoroughly squeezing onto the “Most Disappointing Team of 2017-18” title.
And then the team woke up.
The Thunder have won 10 of their last 13 games, establishing themselves as a legitimate challenger to the power structure of the Western Conference.
This game is purely a matchup of strengths with one of the league’s top offenses taking on one of the elite defenses in the NBA.
Houston’s 116.1 offensive rating is the league’s best. Oklahoma City’s 103.7 defensive rating trails only Boston. The Thunder already own wins over Golden State, San Antonio, Minnesota and Denver, winning four of their last five against the other top records in the West.
The fact that they’re 12-4 at home – 8-1 vs. Western Conference opponents – makes it easier to pick the Thunder to snag another signature win.