Christmas has traditions. Like the New York Knicks playing at Madison Square Garden. Or LeBron James laces up his sneakers and goes to work, and the defending NBA champion joins the action at his holiday game.
All these things are happening this year.
And this holiday has a new twist. Welcome to the Memphis Christmas stage.
The NBA’s Christmas five-game streak is Sunday, and the Grizzlies and Ja Morant are set to play on Dec. 25 for the first time in the franchise’s history. In the rematch, they’ll get the distinction of going to Golden State and facing the reigning champions.
It will be the 15th consecutive year that five games will be played on Christmas Day. Things to know about the 5 matchups (always eastern):
Philadelphia, New York at noon
The Knicks set a Christmas appearance record and were selected to play for the 55th holiday season. Of those, 47 are at home.
This will be the 13th Knicks-76ers game on Christmas Day. No more of his two teams have played against each other over the holidays. And then comes his two most watched teams in the NBA right now. The Knicks are 8-2 in their last 10 games, and the 76ers are on his 7th straight win. Joel Embiid leads his NBA with his 33 points per game.
FACT: 76ers coach Doc Rivers played four times at Christmas, including once with the Knicks. Including his coaching days, this will be Rivers’ 17th time at a Christmas game and 15th time it will be a road game.
LA Lakers in Dallas, 2:30 p.m.
LeBron James appears to be making Christmas appearances as often as Santa Claus. If he plays and the Lakers win, it will be his 11th time James will retire as the winner of Christmas. This is a new record for an NBA player.
And it’s the 24th straight year the Lakers have performed at Christmas. They set his 24-24 record, his December 25th record. It was his longest winning streak in NBA history, surpassing the Knicks by one.
It will be Mavericks star Luka Doncic’s second Christmas game after losing a road game to the Lakers with Dallas in 2020. Mavs coach Jason Kidd said he played four times in the holidays, including losing to James and the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals. 2011-12 season opening rematch.
FACT: The Mavericks will unveil a statue of Basketball Hall of Fame candidate Dirk Nowitzki in the arena hours before games.
Bucks at Celtics, 5pm
This is the second rematch after Milwaukee beat Boston last Christmas and the Celtics beat the Bucks in seven games in the Eastern Conference Semifinals last season.
Before Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Bucks had only played at Christmas four times in their history. They’re now playing in the holidays for the fifth straight season, but Antetokounmpo apparently injured his right hand in Friday night’s loss to the Brooklyn Nets.
The Celtics aren’t exactly in the matchup. After a blistering 21-5 start to the season, they dropped his five of his final seven games.
FACT: This is Boston’s 36th Christmas game, but its 4th at home. For decades, the Celtics have insisted they don’t want arena employees and others away from their families for the holidays.
Warriors’ Grizzlies, 8 p.m.
Stephen Curry is injured and will not play for Golden State. This matchup is the opening of an eight-game homestand for the 15-18 defending his champion.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr said, “Obviously we have to turn things around.” We’re not in a bad situation, we need to be solid, we need to get some guys healthy, and obviously we need to start playing better and gain momentum.”
For Morant and the Grizzlies, this was the stage and matchup they wanted. Morant tweeted his excitement over Warriors forward Draymond Green when the NBA announced its Christmas schedule for the summer. Green responded by inviting Morant and his family to Christmas dinner.
Fact: Now that Memphis is playing its Christmas game, Charlotte is the only active franchise not yet playing during the holiday season.
Sands at Nugget, 10:30 PM
Denver is looking to win its first Christmas since 1994, and two-time defending NBA MVP Nikola Jokic is playing like a man worthy of many considerations to win the award again.
The Suns didn’t play at Christmas from 2010-2020, but they’re back on the holiday schedule for the second year in a row. They lost to Golden State last Christmas.
Fact: Phoenix went 12-7 at Christmas, the fifth-best record in the league. Denver’s 1-6 record is his second worst record in the league this year, after Toronto (0-2).