The NBA’s Christmas gift is a five-strong slate of games with a re-match of last year’s Finals at the top of the tree.
South Beach will host the first meeting between Oklahoma City and Miami since the Heat quelled the Thunder 4-1 last June as LeBron James finally secured his first league championship. For all the talk of challenges from New York in the East and the Clippers or Spurs in the West, there’s still short odds on these two goliaths going toe-to-toe for the title again next summer.
With the Heat’s defence increasingly restored to past glories, it could give us a real insight into whether OKC are capable of seizing the upper hand in this rivalry. How to split them? Miami are 11-5 against teams with .500 records or better while the Thunder are 13-4. This could be their time to shine so take Oklahoma City on the handicap.
We also have the two lead candidates for MVP against each other, with Kevin Durant the 2.05 favourite, just ahead of James at 2.15. But don’t rule out Carmelo Anthony who is priced at 8.00.
Anthony's New York Knicks will make a record 48th appearance on Christmas Day after tipping off the tradition back in 1947 and they’ll be far from home when they visit the Los Angeles Lakers. Make or break time has arrived for LA. Now that Steve Nash is back in the line-up, we’ll get to see whether Mike D’Antoni’s system can align their stars or if they’re set to disappear from view.
There were some signs of promise when the Lakers beat Golden State on Saturday in overtime, the former MVP dishing out nine assists. Kobe Bryant, meanwhile, who will be setting a record of his own with a 15th Yuletide game, scored 34. And although New York were 116-107 winners when the sides met 12 days ago, the hosts could be the ones serving up a stuffing.
There are three other Christmas duels, with Houston hoping to maintain their rise in form on the road in Chicago. The Rockets have won five of their last six and are 11-5 when they go over 100 points. But the Bulls are third in the league in points allowed at just 91.0 which should seem them prevail.
Elsewhere, back Brooklyn to take down Boston with the Nets good value to match their 5-point win over the Celtics of last month. And expect the LA Clippers to rack up their 14th consecutive win against Denver.
Bet of the day: Take the Lakers to beat the Knicks on the handicap.