NBA Christmas games 2018: Full schedule, tipoff times, how to watch

(Getty Images)

The NBA's annual Christmas Day tradition continues with a full slate of five games, including a primetime Western Conference matchup between the Lakers and Warriors. But before watching LeBron James battle the defending champs, there should be plenty of entertainment available as some of the league's top stars face off.

Here's the full schedule for Christmas Day with tipoff times and what's worth watching in each game. 

MORE: Kawhi Leonard has no time for Christmas cheer

NBA Christmas Day schedule 2018

(All times Eastern)

Game Time Channel
Bucks vs. Knicks Noon ESPN
Thunder vs. Rockets 3 p.m. ABC
76ers vs. Celtics 5:30 p.m. ABC
Lakers vs. Warriors 8 p.m. ABC/ESPN
Trail Blazers vs. Jazz 10:30 p.m. ESPN

NBA Christmas jerseys

The NBA and Nike have moved away from creating special one-time jerseys for teams playing on Christmas Day. Instead, a handful of teams will use Christmas 2018 to debut their "Earned Edition" uniforms, a special series Nike created exclusively for teams that qualified for the 2018 playoffs.

Bucks vs. Knicks

Worth watching: Knicks trying to slow down Giannis Antetokounmpo

"The Greak Freak" is one of the top MVP candidates this season, if not the outright leader at this point, and he has taken his game to another level in the Bucks' previous two games against the Knicks.

Antetokounmpo's numbers are ridiculous: 33.0 points, 17.0 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 2.0 blocks while shooting 50.0 percent from the field vs. New York. Noah Vonleh will likely be the primary defender against Antetokounmpo — what a great Christmas gift! — but stopping him will be a team effort.

The key for New York is forcing Antetokounmpo to settle for jumpers. He is averaging almost 18 points per game in the paint, and his wingspan and athleticism make it impossible to stop him once he's within a few feet of the rim. If he's attacking the basket early and often, it could be a long day for the Knicks.

MORE: Khris Middleton won't let max-deal buzz change him

Thunder vs. Rockets

Worth watching: Elite offense vs. Elite defense

Yes, the Rockets have stumbled out of the gates, but Houston is still a top-five offensive team. The Rockets are regularly launching more than 40 3-pointers per game, and James Harden remains one of the most explosive scorers in the league.

However, the Thunder own the NBA's second-best defensive rating and possess plenty of length across their lineup. Oklahoma City limited Houston to 80 points in a win last month, and the Rockets shot 31-82 (37.8 percent) from the field and 11-42 (26.2 percent) from beyond the arc in that contest. This could simply come down to how well the Thunder defend the 3-point line.

76ers vs. Celtics

Worth watching: What has Ben Simmons learned?

The reigning Rookie of the Year struggled mightily against the Celtics in the postseason. He averaged 14.4 points, 8.2 rebounds and 6.4 assists in the second-round series, but he also turned the ball over nearly five times per game and saw his field goal percentage drop down to 47.5 percent compared to 54.5 percent in the regular season.

Boston formed a wall around the lane in order to prevent Simmons from driving and scoring or dishing out to open shooters. Al Horford did a tremendous job using his size and quickness against Simmons, essentially daring him to make a jumper above the free throw line.

Is Simmons better prepared for this Celtics team? How will he adjust with Jimmy Butler now part of this rivalry? An improved Simmons could propel the Sixers into the East's top tier. This game will reveal a lot about how far he's come since the 2018 playoffs.

Lakers vs. Warriors

Worth watching: The LeBron James-Kevin Durant matchup

Come on. Of course it's about LeBron.

The four-time MVP hasn't slowed down at all in Year 16, but the Warriors always present a different challenge. James hasn't found much success against Golden State since Durant joined the superteam — he's lost three of his last four regular season games against Durant and seven of his last eight Finals games.

Lakers coach Luke Walton will have a tough decision to make in how he wants to defend Durant. James is the best option, but with his offensive workload, it could make more sense to deploy Brandon Ingram or Kyle Kuzma. On the other side, Warriors coach Steve Kerr can throw Durant, Draymond Green or Andre Iguodala at James, but expect a LeBron-KD showdown if the score is close in the fourth quarter.

Trail Blazers vs. Jazz

Worth watching: Donovan Mitchell's slight sophomore slump

It's hard to criticize a 22-year-old in his second season too much, but Mitchell has stalled in some areas after a stellar rookie season.

The Jazz star is in the middle of a rough shooting stretch, down around 40 percent from the field and 29 percent from 3-point range. His assist-to-turnover ratio is ugly, and as ESPN's Zach Lowe recently noted, he far too often commits to a wild drive with no backup plan if he gets stuck.

Utah has plenty of time to right the ship, and so does Mitchell. Keep an eye on how he attacks the Trail Blazers and whether he makes the easy pass when a second defender comes his way.

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