Jerry Zgoda's Sunday Insider: A hoops-heavy holiday

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 24, 2012 - 11:15 PM

The NBA's traditional Christmas fare will be especially rich, with five games ranging from L.A. to the Big Apple.

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It wouldn't be a proper Christmas Day without Kobe Bryant and the Lakers playing on either ESPN of ABC.

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While their professional sports counterparts go dark on Christmas Day, the NBA illuminates its brightest lights and wraps five games in sparkling paper and tinsel for a worldwide television audience Tuesday.

Here's a snapshot look at this year's offering for a holiday tradition that dates to 1947.

Boston at Brooklyn, 11 a.m.

TV: ESPN (Mark Jones, Doris Burke)

Story line: A Christmas Day game in New York City is an NBA tradition, but there's a twist here. They've moved it down the subway line to Brooklyn and the new Barclays Center, which has given the former New Jersey Nets a new home, new uniforms, new vibe but still a middling 13-12 record after they started the season 11-4 and have lost eight of their past 10.

On the hot seat: You'd probably expect Nets coach Avery Johnson on it after all the early expectations, but struggling point guard Deron Williams is feeling it for his lousy shooting and pining for the offense he ran before he forced his way out of Utah.

Did you know? Celtics star Kevin Garnett is one of four former league MVPs playing on this Christmas Day. Miami's LeBron James and the L.A. Lakers' Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash are the others.

New York at L.A. Lakers, 2 p.m.

TV: Ch. 5 (Mike Breen, Jeff Van Gundy)

Story line: One team is chasing the league's best record, the other team is struggling both to get back to .500 and find its identity. Just who would have thought nearly two months into the season that the Knicks with Carmelo Anthony playing like a MVP candidate would be the former and the Lakers the latter?

Gone missing: Will all be right in Lakerland now that Steve Nash finally returned Saturday after missing all the season so far because of a leg injury?

Did you know? The Knicks have played on more Christmas Days than any other NBA team. This will be their 48th time since the league began the tradition in 1947. The Lakers are next; this will be their 39th.

Oklahoma City at Miami, 4:30 p.m.

TV: Ch. 5 (Mike Tirico, Hubie Brown)

Story line: A rematch of last season's NBA Finals, except this time the runner-up Thunder, if you take away Thursday's loss to the Wolves, is playing like the NBA's best team and the defending champion Heat often gives the impression it already is biding time, waiting for the playoffs.

Magic Johnson says: "The Heat are going to be fine. They are still the best team in the East. They are so talented. They've got the best all-around player in the world in LeBron James. Dwyane Wade is still a big-game player, as long as he stays healthy. Chris Bosh always is consistent and Ray Allen, the bigger the games, the better he performs, especially in the playoffs."

Did you know? Wade is second among all active players in points scored on Christmas Day. Kobe Bryant is first with 349 points in 14 previous Christmas Day games, and Wade is next with 183.

Houston at Chicago, 7 p.m.

TV: ESPN (Dave Pash, Jon Barry)

Story line: The Rockets, remade by their October acquisition of star shooting guard James Harden, tune up for their Target Center appearance a night later by visiting a Bulls team that has stayed atop the Central Division even without injured Derrick Rose because coach Tom Thibodeau demands defense.

Twenty years ago today: Bulls star Michael Jordan scored 42 points against the Knicks and Patrick Ewing. Bulls won 89-77.

Did you know? Six of the 23 international players competing before a television audience in 215 countries are in this one. That international emphasis is why the Wolves, with players from Russia, Spain, Montenegro and Puerto Rico, are a best bet to play on Christmas Day next year.

Denver at L.A. Clippers, 9:30 p.m.

TV: ESPN (Mike Breen, Jeff Van Gundy)

Story line: Now that the Wolves ended Oklahoma City's 12-game winning streak Thursday, the Clippers are steaming toward Christmas with the NBA's longest current streak, at 12 and counting, as they head to Phoenix for a Sunday game before ABC/ESPN's Christmas nightcap.

Magic says: "This Clippers team is for real. I'm just blown away by their commitment to each other and their commitment to winning. This is a serious team."

Did you know? A year ago, announcers Breen and Van Gundy called Christmas Day games in both Dallas and Oakland. This time, they've got it comparatively easy with a Staples Center doubleheader featuring the Lakers in the afternoon and Clippers at night.

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Pittsburgh - WP: B. Morris 8 FINAL
Cincinnati - LP: S. LeCure 7
Atlanta 0 Postponed
Philadelphia 0
Chicago Cubs 0 Postponed
NY Yankees 0
Tampa Bay 0 Postponed
Baltimore 0
Cleveland 0 Postponed
Detroit 0
Washington - LP: S. Strasburg 2 FINAL
Miami - WP: T. Koehler 11
Pittsburgh - LP: G. Cole 5 FINAL
Cincinnati - WP: M. Leake 7
Seattle - LP: B. Beavan 0 FINAL
Texas - WP: R. Ross Jr. 5
St. Louis - WP: S. Miller 6 FINAL
Milwaukee - LP: M. Estrada 1
Boston - LP: B. Badenhop 1 FINAL
Chicago WSox - WP: D. Webb 2
Kansas City - WP: Y. Ventura 4 FINAL
Houston - LP: L. Harrell 2
Toronto - WP: A. Loup 9 FINAL
Minnesota - LP: P. Hughes 3
NY Mets - WP: J. Mejia 9 FINAL
Arizona - LP: B. Arroyo 0
Oakland - WP: J. Johnson 10 FINAL
LA Angels - LP: Y. Herrera 9
Colorado - WP: J. Nicasio 3 FINAL
San Diego - LP: R. Erlin 2
Los Angeles - LP: B. League 2 FINAL
San Francisco - WP: Y. Petit 3
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Brooklyn 98
Denver 105 FINAL
LA Clippers 117
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