Plenty of intrigue on NBA's Christmas schedule

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 24, 2012 at 2:52 pm •  Published: December 24, 2012

Finish that game, clear the court, and basketball fans in Los Angeles then get a second present — the NBA's best team of late.

The Clippers, winners of a franchise-record 13 straight, close the five-pack of games against the Denver Nuggets. For the Clippers, it will be only the fourth Christmas home game in franchise history. For comparison's sake, Bryant will be playing on the holiday for the 15th time, and this will be his 12th time doing so at home.

"It will be a good challenge for us," Denver forward Danilo Gallinari told reporters when asked about facing the Clippers. "And we'll be ready for them."

So after Boston-Brooklyn, Knicks-Lakers and Thunder-Heat comes the fourth game of the day when Houston goes to Chicago, exactly 20 years after Jordan put up a Christmas show of his own with a 42-point, eight-rebound effort to lift the Bulls over New York 89-77.

Derrick Rose remains out for the Bulls, of course, but there is one reunion to take note of — it'll be Omer Asik's first time playing in Chicago since he joined the Rockets this past offseason.

And that sets the table for the nightcap, when the Nuggets meet the Clippers.

Maybe the best matchup of all comes in Miami, where the Thunder meet the Heat in what's sure to be an emotionally charged day. First, it's a finals rematch. Secondly, the teams will also pay tribute to military families by handing out gifts to children on the court immediately before the game, and both clubs will wear ribbons to honor those who were killed in the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., earlier this month.

Several Heat players, including LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, said that playing on Christmas is difficult because of their desire for family time.

At the same time, both also said it's an honor — especially so as the league's reigning champions.

"I think it's great for the fans, having those games," James said. "But for us, as family men, Christmas is a day that we would love to spend with our family and be home with our family. I have no problem with the game as scheduled. I love to play the game, I love to play basketball so I'm going to be out there and I'm going to be excited for it."