Again at Christmas, the Lakers and Clippers are two of the featured teams on one of the big broadcast days for the NBA – they just won’t be playing against each other this year.
Defending champion Lakers will take on Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks at Staples Center, while the Clippers head to Denver for a rematch with the Denver Nuggets team that shocked them in the playoffs last season.
The Lakers will face the Mavericks at 5:00 PM PST, while the Clippers and Nuggets air at 7:30 PM PST. Both games are broadcast on ESPN, which was the first to report the games. The Lakers and Clippers faced Christmas at Staples Center last season.
These are the first concrete games to date of a reduced 72-game regular season schedule that is still being drafted behind the scenes. The NBA, which tentatively opens its season on December 22, is expected to announce the first half of the schedule within a week, which will run through March 5. While the shortened off-season was a logistical challenge in a process that usually takes the better part of a year, many NBA arenas have empty schedules due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Lakers-Mavericks match-up should feature three first-team All-NBA firsts from last season, with LeBron James and Anthony Davis (pending signing an expected contract with the Lakers) against Doncic, a top -four MVP finisher. Doncic and James were two of three players in the league who averaged more than 25 points and 8 assists last season (Atlanta’s Trae Young was the other).
While forward Kristaps Porzingis is expected to be out with an injury until at least January, the Lakers and Mavericks had captivating matchups last season, including a win for the Lakers overtime in Dallas. The Lakers had a 3-1 lead in the games last season. Doncic, who looked up to James as a child, stands against him 1-5 in his career.
Kawhi Leonard and Paul George get an early check from the Denver team that fired them in September and returned from a 3-1 deficit in their second round. The Nuggets boast All-NBA center Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray, who was one of the strongest scorers in the bubble last postseason (26.5 ppg in the playoffs). The Clippers and Nuggets finished second and third in the Western Conference respectively last season.
The five-game Christmas Day schedule starts with New Orleans in Miami (9 p.m. PT) and includes Golden State in Milwaukee (11:30 p.m. PT) and Brooklyn in Boston (2 p.m. PT).