10. How will Phil Jackson handle playing on Christmas?
“I don’t think anyone should play on Christmas Day. Soccer teams don’t play. They take a break. No hockey. I don’t understand it.” This kind of negative attitude towards playing on Christmas could be a bad sign for the Lakers. Are Phil Jackson‘s complaints an early waving of the white flag? While this might be a ridiculous assumption, would he be complaining about Christmas games if he were playing the Clippers? It is something to think about.
9. Who will be the highest scorer?
Out of the top 15 scorers in the NBA, nine will be playing today (Kevin Durant, Amar’e Stoudemire, Kobe Bryant, Monta Ellis, LeBron James, Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade, Russell Westbrook and Dwight Howard). New York and Golden State have two of the worst defenses in the league, allowing the 27th and 28th most points per game respectively, so don’t be surprised if the highest scorer on the day comes from either of those games.
8. How will J.R Smith handle the spotlight?
Due to the unfortunate death of Carmelo Anthony‘s sister, J.R Smith has been put in the starting lineup. On Wednesday, Smith went off for 22 points and seven rebounds against the Spurs. There’s no doubt that the Thunder will put Thabo Sefolosha on him, which will arguably be the best matchup of the game.
7. Will Jermaine O’Neal’s return make a difference?
Having been out since November 8th, Jermaine O’Neal will have to return to the lineup against the NBA’s best center in Dwight Howard. This will be the first time both O’Neals will be activated together since October. Semih Erden did a decent job of holding it down for J.O, so it will be interesting to see what Doc Rivers does with the substitution patterns in this game.
6. Can LaMarcus Aldridge continue to turn Portland around?
Although Greg Oden, Brandon Roy, Marcus Camby, and many more Blazers have been injured, nobody would have expected Portland to be at a mere 15-14 at this point in the season. This team has always had such high expectations due to their depth and talent is too much to be barely over .500. LaMarcus Aldridge has put up 27.3 points and 13.6 rebounds per game in their recent three-game win streak. Today’s game against the Warriors will be another opportunity to help him retain his title as the West’s Amar’e Stoudemire.