The Top 10 X-Factors Of Christmas Day Games

By: 12.25.12
Kevin Durant

Kevin Durant (photo. Nike)

The next game will be the most anticipated one of the day. The Oklahoma City Thunder will travel to Miami to take on the Heat in American Airlines Arena at 5:30 p.m. EST. The game will be shown nationally on ABC, as well.

The Heat and the Thunder are, on paper, two incredibly evenly matched teams. I think that the Thunder actually have an edge in this matchup, though. The Miami Heat aren’t the same team that they were in the NBA Finals, for whatever reason, and they’ve lost their touch defensively.

The X-factor for the Heat is going to be Mario Chalmers. He’s going to have to hold Russell Westbrookdown all game long. Russell has been dominant this season making plays for other teammates and not only getting his own shot. He’s only shooting 41 percent from the field on the season, per basketball-reference, but he’s averaging a career high 8.8 assists. Chalmers has to frustrate Westbrook and get him to disrupt the Thunder’s league-leading offense. It all starts with Russell and if he’s making detrimental plays on the front-end those are going to be a big win for the Heat.

For the Thunder, Kevin Martin is going to need to have a big game on Christmas day. He’s going up against the 16th-ranked defense in the league per basketball-reference and he should theoretically have a good game. He’s going to be matched up against Ray Allen, who isn’t the best defender in the world, and Dwyane Wade who hasn’t been himself this season. Martin is going to be the key for the Thunder in providing the spacing that they need to get to the rim. He’s one of the best players in the league when creating offense from the triple threat. That’s going to be huge playing against a Heat defense that really loves to gamble.

The Houston Rockets are going to travel to the United Center in Chicago to face the Bulls who have been a pleasant surprise without Derrick Rose this season. The game will be nationally broadcast on ESPN. Also, Omer Asik will have a homecoming against his former team.

This is a game that was really made possible by Jeremy Lin. There’s been large speculation that the Rockets wouldn’t be considered for this primetime spot if they hadn’t picked Lin up—the schedule was decided before James Harden was traded to Houston. Whether that’s right or wrong, Lin is going to have a large impact on the outcome of this game. There’s been an ongoing narrative that Lin and Harden don’t mix well on the floor. That’s been true for the most part. Per Tom Haberstroh of, Lin’s numbers are exceptional when Harden is off of the floor. He averages 19.7 points, 7.5 assists, 5.1 rebounds with a true shooting percentage of 55.4 and a 17.7 PER.

If the Rockets are going to have a chance against the Bulls’ defense, they’ll need both of their creators to produce well. Harden has done an excellent job at that, but Lin has needed to pick himself up more often than not.

For the Bulls, they’ll need to stop James Harden. Per’s basketball stats, when the Rockets win Harden shoots 48 percent from the field. In their losses that takes a huge fall all the way down to 37 percent. Harden’s game is predicated off of getting high percentage looks at the rim, from three and, most importantly, from the free-throw line. That’s where Joakim Noah comes in for the Bulls. He’s going to guard against the pick and roll that Harden flourishes in. He kills teams by running the pick-and-roll with whoever the five is and having shooters around him. Noah may be stuck on an island with Harden more often than not. Asik is a great screen setter and takes the perimeter player out of the play. If Noah can force Harden to make midrange shots the Bulls will win.

In the final game of the night the Denver Nuggets will travel to the Staples Center to face the Los Angeles Clippers at 10:30 p.m. EST. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.

This is going to be a really fun game—maybe the most fun to watch of the day. Each team likes to get up and down the floor and they have the athletes to do it. We’ll get to see Lob City go up against the Mile High club—that’s must see stuff if you ask me.

The key for the Clippers is going to be Eric Bledsoe. He’s going to need to provide the Clippers with the energy that he’s given all season long off of the bench. Once Chris Paul sits down, the Clippers offense has a chance to go stagnant. It hasn’t happened yet this year and a lot of that is because of Eric Bledsoe’s short bursts of production. Though he only plays 18 minutes a game, Bledsoe is averaging 9.4 points and 2.9 assists per game, via basketball-reference. Bledsoe’s per 36 stats show that he has the potential to score 18.4 points per game and 5.4 assists. To have that on your reserve unit is something special.

For the Nuggets, they’ll need for Ty Lawson to return to form. He’s averaging 16 points per game right now, but he’s doing it on only 42 percent shooting after a 2011-12 season where he shot 48 percent from the floor. Lawson is also averaging career lows in free-throw percentage and his three-point percentage as well. He’s averaging a career high in turnovers of three per game and has an offensive rating of only 103. Lawson has to play better against one of the better point guards in the league if the Nuggets are going to win the game. He’s struggled for most of the season, but Christmas Day is the perfect opportunity for him to turn things around.

As you can see, there will be some great matchups featured Christmas Day. Make sure that you catch every game.

What will be the matchup to watch?

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