NBA in December Preview
Hoops fans can look forward to an abundance of exciting NBA games during the next few weeks. The schedule is packed full of eagerly anticipated clashes, culminating in the Christmas slate. We have rounded up the most exciting games to look out for and provided a futures betting update.
Boston Celtics vs. Los Angeles Lakers
Tuesday, December 7, at Staples Center
The Lakers will bid to reignite their faltering season when they host the Celtics on Tuesday. They currently sit eighth in the Western Conference standings after going 4-6 in their last 10 games, but they will be keen to climb higher in the weeks ahead.
Much will depend upon the health of LeBron James, as the Lakers are +0.2 points per 100 possessions when he is on the floor this season and -5.2 points when he is off. They also need to figure out how to form an effective unit out of LeBron and Russell Westbrook.
The Celtics are up to seventh in the east. Al Horford’s renaissance has been magnificent, and Jayson Tatum is always reliable, so Boston should be very competitive in this game. It finished 130-108 to the Celtics when these teams met in Boston last month, but it could be a lot closer in LA.
Golden State Warriors vs. Philadelphia 76ers
Saturday, December 11, at Wells Fargo Center
The Dubs have vastly exceeded expectations during the opening weeks of the season. They sit top of the Western Conference after winning 19 of their first 23 games, and Stephen Curry is now the clear favorite to win the regular season MVP award, priced at just +130 with Caesars Sportsbook.
Jordan Poole has impressed, and Gary Payton II has linked up well with Curry. Klay Thompson could also make his long-awaited return to action by the end of the month, so it is easy to see why a resurgent Golden State is now the favorite to win the Western Conference.
The Warriors have won their last two games against the 76ers and they have enough quality to make it three in a row on December 11. Joel Embiid is back in business, and Seth Curry continues to go from strength to strength, but he is unlikely to emerge victorious against his older brother.
Phoenix Suns vs. Los Angeles Clippers
Monday, December 13, at Staples Center
Two of the Western Conference’s strongest teams will lock horns at the Staples Center next Monday. The Suns are level with the Warriors at the top of the conference after making a flying start to the season. They are 9-1 in their last 10 games, and they should still be surging with confidence by the time they visit LA.
It will be fascinating to see Devin Booker, Chris Paul and Mikal Bridges come up against a Clippers team that Paul George has carried in recent weeks. After making a very strong start to the season, the Clippers have dropped seven of their last 10 games, and Phoenix should be too slick for them to handle.
Houston Rockets vs. Chicago Bulls
Monday, December 20, at United Center
The Bulls look dangerous this year, with Nikola Vucevic leading the charge. DeMar DeRozan was also brilliant in their victory against the Nets at the weekend, and Zach LaVine, Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso have all impressed.
If they stay healthy, the Bulls should get the better of Houston in the Windy City. Yet the Rockets are revitalized right now. They went 1-16 at the start of the season, but they have since won five in a row to climb up to the giddy heights of 14th in the standings. It will be interesting to see if they can maintain the momentum, but they could be overrun against Chicago.
Atlanta Hawks vs. New York Knicks
Saturday, December 25, at Madison Square Garden
The Christmas slate begins with an intriguing showdown between the Hawks and the Knicks at the Garden. Trae Young will be the center of attention, as the home crowd will never forgive his trash talking, and they will be on his back from the start of the game.
Last season, the Hawks beat the Knicks comfortably in the playoffs, but New York gained a measure of revenge by winning in Atlanta last week. Both teams have made a sluggish start to the current season, but the Hawks are threatening to return to their brilliant best – led by Young and Clint Capela – and they could ruin the Knicks’ Christmas.
Boston Celtics vs. Milwaukee Bucks
Saturday, December 25, at Fiserv Forum
The next Christmas clash sees the Celtics tangle with the Bucks in Milwaukee. The reigning NBA champions also made a slow start to the season, but there were mitigating circumstances, as the team had horrible luck with injuries. When Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton are on court together, Milwaukee is 10-0 this season.
If that triumvirate is healthy on Christmas Day, the Bucks should get the better of a Celtics team with a mediocre away record. Boston beat the Bucks in overtime last month, but Milwaukee should be capable of returning to the ascendancy in the rematch.
Golden State Warriors vs. Phoenix Suns
Saturday, December 25, at Footprint Center
The top two teams in the west will go head-to-head on Christmas Day, which is a thoroughly exciting prospect. Many expect these teams to clash in the Western Conference Finals, so all eyes will be on this game.
They served up an entertaining spectacle last week. The Suns came into the game on a franchise-record 18-game winning streak, but Steph Curry led the Dubs to a 118-96 win. They displayed terrific energy, elite defensive prowess, and admirable tactical flexibility to overwhelm their rivals.
Yet the Suns eased to victory in the first meeting between these teams this year, with Mikal Bridges putting the clamps upon Curry, so this game could go either way. We may even see Klay Thompson return to the court to add another layer of intrigue.
Brooklyn Nets vs. Los Angeles Lakers
Saturday, December 25, at Staples Center
Brooklyn remains the favorite to win the NBA Championship this season after ascending to the top of the Eastern Conference. Kyrie Irving is still out of action, but Kevin Durrant has shown flashes of his brilliance, and James Harden’s individual numbers are improving.
Watching Durrant go up against LeBron James is always an exciting prospect, while it will also be great to see Harden and Russell Westbrook go head-to-head. The Lakers are no longer the favorites to clinch the Western Conference, but they are still capable of beating any team in the league when they play to their full potential, so this should be a thrilling game.
Dallas Mavericks vs. Utah Jazz
Saturday, December 25, at Vivint Arena
Reigning NBA MVP Luka Doncic will bid to lead his team to an unlikely win against an extremely talented Utah Jazz team in the final game of the Christmas slate. The Mavs have been inconsistent this season, with Kristaps Porzingis coming in for a lot of criticism for his shooting, but they have still been involved in lots of entertaining games.
Utah has cemented its status as a top-three team in the west by winning 15 of its opening 22 games of the season. The Jazz are second in the league for net rating, and they are +13.2 points per 100 possessions when Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert are on the floor together. If that duo starts on Christmas, the Jazz should be too strong for the Mavericks.
Orlando Magic vs. Miami Heat
Sunday, December 26, at FTX Arena
These Sunshine State rivals should deliver an entertaining spectacle when basketball fans are recovering from the indulgences of Christmas Day. The Heat have won their last three games against the Magic, and Miami will be the heavy favorite on December 26.
When everyone is healthy, they are genuine contenders for glory. Even with a couple of players missing, they should still have enough to beat the Magic, who have the worst net rating in the league. Yet Orlando has pulled off surprise victories over the Jazz and the Nuggets in recent weeks, so you can never totally write off its chances of success.
Futures Betting Update
The Brooklyn Nets are the +145 favorites to win the Eastern Conference with DraftKings. The Bucks are the most likely team to stop them, priced at +333 with Bet365. The Miami Heat are out at +750, and the Sixers are +100. The odds on the Bulls continue to plummet, and some books now have just +1200 on them, but DraftKings is offering +1600.
The Warriors are the favorites for the west, best priced at +300 with Caesars. The Jazz are +450, and PointsBet is now offering +500 on the Lakers and the Suns. The Clippers are +1200 underdogs.
PointsBet has a market leading +300 on the Nets to win the NBA Championship, while most books are now offering just +600 on the Dubs following their hot streak. You can get +3300 on the Bulls as a long shot.
FanDuel has a best price of +150 on Stephen Curry being named MVP, while Kevin Durrant is +500, and DraftKings has +700 on Giannis Antetokounmpo.