Seasons Greetings from Stepien Rules! Here are some quick previews to read in between meals and/or while avoiding your in-laws. Enjoy!
Heat @ Knicks (12:00pm EST, ESPN)
The rivalry of the 90s is long gone, but the drama around these two teams is never dull. Both of these teams have gone through lulls and spurts through the season so far, and it looks like the Knicks are in a spurt while the Heat are in a lull right now. Another piece of drama surrounding these two teams is that they've both been touted as major landing spots for LeBron James next season, but we'll see how this season plays out first before we fumble around with all that posturing. It's the first game of the day, so let's hope this appetizer doesn't leave you with a bad taste in your mouth.
Celtics @ Magic (2:30pm, ABC)
Salad course! After the hard-fought playoff series between these two teams last year, this should be a stellar match-up. Unfortunately, Boston is going to be without Paul Pierce (he's missing a few weeks for knee irrigation, gross), so we won't really be able to put a whole lot of predicting value on this game in case of a future playoff match-up this postseason. Look for Cavs fans to hope for both teams to somehow lose this game.
Cavs @ Lakers (5:00pm, ABC)
Mmm mmm, the main course. We hope everyone enjoyed the Cavs' early Christmas presents to their fanbase on Wednesday night: a win, an overtime shutout, (3) 3-pointers by Z, and a Triple-Double by LeBron against the Kings. Now, for the rest of the Cavs' fanbase, let's hope they don't forget to give us a win against the Lakers on Friday.
This game is important for 2 reasons:
1) Because a bajillion people will be watching, and
2) It will show EVERYONE if the big Shaquisition has paid dividends against a team the Cavs really care about beating.
Look for Mike Brown to employ the ever unpopular twin-towers lineup (featuring Shaq and Z), because the Lakers are one of the only teams that require lots and lots of height to defend their guys. In case you haven't noticed, the Lakers are a damn good team. Last year, Delonte wasn't available to defend Kobe; let's hope he is this year. LeBron should spend his time defending Odom. Other than that, the Cavs should hope for some throwback games from Shaq and Z as Christmas presents this year. (Editor's note: look for a Christmas day Q and A featuring the Laker Blog With Malice later this morning here on SR)
Clippers @ Suns (8:00pm, ESPN)
Chocolate Pecan Pie! Barbosa's back, Griffin's not. Look for the Clippers' bigs to play some defense against Amare, and look for Baron Davis to make Steve Nash look like... Steve Nash. Eric Gordon will put up some big numbers tomorrow, but that'll be because Phoenix is controlling the pace of the game (and because no one will be defending Gordon). Should we a tasty wind-down to the festivities of the day.
Nuggets @ Blazers (10:30pm, ESPN)
Coffee and late-night pickin'. If you're still up on the East Coast (or West, for that matter), this game will be a nice end to your evening. The Nuggets have come down to earth a bit from their playoff performance last season, but have still been playing fantastic ball. And the Blazers have been proving to everyone that short-handed doesn't necessarily mean you're at a disadvantage. Some fine West-coast ball happening here. Look for Aldridge to continue his streak of big games, and look for Birdman to sneak in and swat a couple of his shots.
One thing the NBA and ESPN may not have noticed is the fact that all 5 teams that have ever employed Shaq are playing today: Magic, Lakers, Heat, Suns, and Cavs. Weird. Big day for the big guy. We hope you enjoy it as much as he will. And let's hope he enjoys it by showing his former team how his @$$ tastes.
Merry Shaqsmas and Happy Holidays!