FILE - In this June 17, 2019, file photo, Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry holds the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy up for the fans during the NBA basketball championship team’s victory parade. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP, File)

FILE - In this June 17, 2019, file photo, Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry holds the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy up for the fans during the NBA basketball championship team’s victory parade. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP, File)

The NBA’s showcase day – Christmas – has arrived

The Raptors have been waiting a long time to be part of NBA Christmas

The MVP is playing.

So are the reigning champions, north of the border.

And out in L.A., the NBA’s newest dynamic duos will square off as well.

On the 65th day of the season, with 454 games — more than one-third of the schedule — already in the books, the NBA’s unofficial start date has arrived. The annual Christmas Day quintupleheader of games is Wednesday, the day where the casual fan typically turns their attention toward the NBA.

“It’s going to be cool, man,” said Toronto guard Kyle Lowry, who’ll be making his Christmas debut. “It’s going to be very cool. I’ve always watched it on TV ever since I was a young child. And it’s going to be awesome to step foot on that floor on Christmas Day, have my family and friends around and have the whole world watching.”

The good news from a ratings perspective: Four of the Eastern Conference’s five best teams so far are on the schedule, all playing each other. The bad news: The two worst teams in the Western Conference so far are also on the schedule. But LeBron James and Anthony Davis’ first Christmas as Los Angeles Lakers teammates — facing off against the crosstown rival Clippers — should certainly draw plenty of eyeballs.

“It’s Christmas Day,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “I hope everybody has a great holiday and spends some time with their families, but it’s about the next opponent in front of us. We have to get a win.”

The other matchups: Boston goes to Toronto in the NBA’s first Christmas game in Canada, followed by Milwaukee visiting Philadelphia, Houston going to Golden State, the Lakers-Clippers contest and then a nightcap between New Orleans and a Denver team led by Nikola Jokic and off to the best start in franchise history at 20-8.

“You’re always told that the best teams play on Christmas, the All-Star players play on Christmas and the whole world is watching this game,” said Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, the league’s reigning MVP who has even better numbers this year than he did a year ago.

The potential certainly exists for so

me playoff-preview matchups. It’s not a stretch to think that the Raptors and Celtics or 76ers and Bucks will wind up meeting in a best-of-seven come April or May. And the same holds true in Los Angeles, where the Clippers and Lakers might be the best of the West.

The Lakers have Davis and James. The Clippers now have Paul George and two-time NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard. Those two pairings shook up the league’s landscape considerably when they came together this past summer, and so far with the Lakers are 24-6 and the Clippers at 22-10 neither side has much to complain about.

“I think we’re good,” George said. “I think we’re good.”

The Clippers are 10-3 in games where both Leonard and George start. Davis and James are one of two duos where both are averaging more than 25 points per game; Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins in Minnesota are the other.

READ MORE: Raptors record biggest comeback in franchise history to beat Dallas 110-107

The pairing of James and Davis has looked spectacular at times already. If there was any confusion about whether those two superstar talents could work together, those questions have been answered.

“We know what the end goal is,” Davis said. “And when you have guys like that, with veteran leadership, when everyone is locked in to our goal, it’s easy for us to jell together.”

James puts it even more simply.

“It’s about getting better, each and every day,” James said.

Christmas is where last year’s Lakers season went wrong — they were fourth in the West, then James got hurt on Dec. 25 and L.A. went on a freefall out of the playoff picture. And injuries will affect some of what the league gets to display on Christmas this year as well.

Golden State has been doomed by injuries all season, with no Klay Thompson and no Stephen Curry for much of this season. New Orleans was picked to be part of the showcase day because of No. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson, who has yet to appear in a regular-season game — his summer league was cut short by injury, and a stellar preseason ended the same way. And Toronto is missing several top players right now, including Pascal Siakam and Marc Gasol.

But make no mistake: The Raptors have been waiting a long time to be part of NBA Christmas. Wednesday is their first time on the holiday schedule since 2001.

“It’ll be interesting,” Toronto coach Nick Nurse said. “I wish we had more of our regular guys playing in it, but we’ve got to go play the game nevertheless. So we’ll see. I think it’ll be fun. I’m getting a lot of messages from back home. Everybody’s going to be watching.”

ALSO READ: Toronto Raptors, Don Cherry top the list of Canadians’ Google searches in 2019

___

Tim Reynolds, The Associated Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Environment Canada has issued a special weather statement forecasting windy weather Sunday and Monday. (News Bulletin file photo)
More windy weather on the way for Vancouver Island

Environment Canada issues special weather statement for Victoria, east coast of Island, north Island

Ladysmith Chamber of Commerce has worked to support businesses throughout the pandemic. (File photo)
Ladysmith Chamber reflects on a challenging 2020

For small businesses looking to adapt to the challenges of COVID-19 one… Continue reading

49th parallel was an early adopter of Plexiglas shields, and required staff to wear face masks. (49th Parallel photo)
49th Parallel continues to grow in spite of pandemic

The biggest challenge of the pandemic has been keeping shelves stocked at 49th Parallel stores

Freighter anchored off Kin Beach in Chemainus. (Photo by Don Bodger)
MacGregor to host expert panel for virtual town hall on freighter anchorages issue

Residents can participate through MP’s website or Facebook page Dec. 3

Homes ranging from $400,000 to $700,000 are the fastest sellers. (File photo)
High demand and low inventory drive a competitive housing market in Ladysmith

VIREB’s Susan Perrey said buyers are looking to take advantage of low interest rates

Idyllic winter scenes are part of the atmosphere of the holiday season, and are depicted in many seasonal movies. How much do you know about holiday movies? Put your knowledge to the test. (Pixabay.com)
QUIZ: Test your knowledge of holiday movies and television specials

The festive season is a time for relaxing and enjoying some seasonal favourites

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Kevin Bieksa during his days playing with the Vancouver Canucks. (Photo: commons.wikimedia.org)
Bieksa to guest on free Canucks Alumni ‘Hot Stove’ on Zoom app

Former NHL player has become a game analyst on Sportsnet

A small crash in the water south of Courtenay Saturday afternoon. Two men had to be rescued, but reports indicate there were no serious injuries. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Small plane crash in Comox Valley waters Saturday afternoon

Two rescued from plane that had flipped in water; no serious injuries reported

A photo from 2017, of Nuchatlaht First Nation members outside court after filing a land title case in B.C. ( Submitted photo/Nuchatlaht First Nation).
Vancouver Island First Nation calls on B.C. to honour UNDRIP in historic title case

Nuchatlaht First Nation says Crown counsel continues to stall the case using the ‘distasteful’ argument that the Nation ‘abandoned’ their land

West Vancouver Island’s Ehattesaht First Nation continues lock down after 9 active cases were reported today after a visitor tested positive last week. (Ehattesaht First Nation/Facebook)
Ehattesaht First Nation’s COVID-19 nightmare: nine active cases, a storm and a power outage

The Vancouver Island First Nation in a lockdown since the first case was reported last week

114 Canadians were appointed Nov. 27 to the Order of Canada. (Governor General of Canada photo)
Indigenous actor, author, elder, leaders appointed to Order of Canada

Outstanding achievement, community dedication and service recognized

The Ahousaht First Nation confirmed its first case of COVID-19 on Nov. 26, 2020. (Westerly file photo)
Ahousaht First Nation on lockdown over COVID-19

“Emotions are high. The anxiety is high. We want our community to pull through.”

Most Read