The NFL has Thanksgiving. College football has New Year's Day. MLB has the 4th of July (unless they inexplicably give half the league that day off). But NBA Christmastops them all. Five marquee matchups from noon ET until the wee hours of Boxing Day.
This year, the Association gifts us (sorry, couldn't resist) a holly jolly slate, starting with the Philadelphia 76ers at the suddenly surging New York Knicks at noon, followed by the Los Angeles Lakers at the Dallas Mavericks at 2:30 p.m.. The juiciest matchup of the day comes at 5 p.m. as the Boston Celtics host the Milwaukee Bucks in a battle of the top two teams in the Eastern Conference. The Steph Curry-less Golden State Warriors take on the Memphis Grizzlies at 8 p.m., and the Phoenix Suns visit two-time reigning MVP Nikola Joki? and the Denver Nuggets at 10:30 p.m..
From a gambling perspective, you've got options. You can play things conventionally, examining the odds for each game and picking a team or over/under total straight up. Totally reasonable, totally fun. Somewhat tame, but who's judging?
Or you can get weird and concoct some parlays based on the tenets of some classic Christmas canon.
The Grinch Bet - Take the Unders
Basketball is a game predicated on scoring. Everyone likes offense. It's fun to watch the ball go in the hoop, sure, go nuts. Woo! Everyone also likes Christmas. Presents, family, fun, presents, food, etc. Except the Grinch. The Grinch hates Christmas. The Grinch also hates scoring.
Make like The Grinch and take the under on all five games. You can play them straight up at -110 for each game. Or you could go for the Heart Three Sizes Too Small Parlay and lump all five together. That pays out at around +2400. A 100% sucker bet that will absolutely not hit, but how fun would it be to stare at a screen for 12 and a half hours willing players to miss shots?
If you're going to pick just one game to go under, I'd lean on the Sixers-Knicks matchup. Playing at noon is weird. Last season, Hawks at Knicks went under by almost 20 points. When the Knicks hosted the Bucks at noon on Christmas Day in 2018, the under hit by 22 points. This season, the Knicks are going under in ~55% of their games. Combination of tough defense and a weird time to shoot a basketball on a cold-ass day in NYC? Lotta bricks!
The I'll Be Home For Christmas Bet - Bet on the On-Court Logos
Maybe you won't be home for Christmas. Maybe you don't want to be home for Christmas. Maybe you don't celebrate Christmas! Don't let that stop you from putting all the home teams in a money-line parlay.
The Knicks and Warriors are both home underdogs this Christmas. New York dropped a tough one to the Raptors on Wednesday, but are coming off an 8 game winning streak and are looking to cement themselves as playoff contenders in a crowded Eastern Conference. Golden State is missing Steph Curry, but there's no love lost between the Warriors and Grizzlies, and you know the defending world champs will want to make a statement on their home court.
Toss all the home teams together and you're looking at a parlay of around +1700. Hit that and you'll have a great answer for your asshole Uncle Jim when he asks how you can make any money doing whatever it is you do for a living.
The Stocking Stuffers - Defense Wins Championships (and Bets)
It's Christmas morning and you wake up to find that Santa has stuffed your stocking with a couple of little gifts. If you grew up in my house, it was usually a couple of scratch-offs.
But this Christmas, we've got a handful of shot-blockers who will be stuffing shots all day. (Wow what a hack of a joke that was!)
Player props won't be listed until Christmas morning. But go ahead and tentatively mark down Robert Williams III and Jaren Jackson Jr. as over 1.5 blocks. Both big men started the season on the injured list, but are back and showing their springs. In his first 14 games of the season, Jackson is averaging over 3 blocks per contest, an eye-popping number that would easily be number one in the NBA. Williams only has 5 blocks through three games this year, but averaged over 2 per game last season.
Also take a look at Brook Lopez and Mitchell Robinson, both top five in blocks per game.
The Star(s) On The Top of The Tree - Big Names and Big Points
NBA stars know the league is on display on Christmas. They watch SportsCenter and see the little graphics about who's won the most games or averaged the highest point total on Christmas. Or their teams just tweet about it.
We should bet accordingly.
In the Lakers-Mavericks matchup, look for LeBron James and Luka Doncic to both go over their individual scoring prop totals. Dallas's offense is incredibly one-dimensional this season, with Luka basically doing everything on every possession. LeBron, even in his 20th season, is averaging over 27 points per game, and knows how to put on a show.
Similarly, expect Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jayson Tatum to fill up the stat sheet in their first rematch of last year's second round playoff series. The Celtics are reeling as of late. They've lost 5 of their last 6 heading into the weekend's action, and dropped below Milwaukee in the Eastern Conference standings. The Bucks will be looking for revenge after Boston ended their season last spring. Would not be surprised to see dual 35 point performances for The Freak and Big Deuce.
The Elf - Santa's Assist-ant Bet
How can Santa deliver all those gifts to every little kid around the world every year? Only with the help of an underpaid, over-exploited workforce of elves!
In Christmas canon and in basketball lore, elves and assist leaders are historically small. But just as Will Ferrell is an exception to the small elf rule, Nikola Joki? is third in the league in assists per game and is 6-foot-11. Remember that scene where Buddy the Elf turns his arm into a machine gun in the snowball fight with the little kid in the Wayne Chrebet jersey? That's Jokic-level accuracy but with passing a basketball, and also without looking.
Look to hit the big man's over on assists this Christmas.
The Christmas Miracle - Go Big or Go Home
We all remember wanting that pinnacle of Christmas gifts. Maybe it was an action figure. Or a new video game. Or that stupid bb gun if you're that annoying kid from the most overrated movie of all time.
But just because you're not a little kid anymore, it doesn't mean you can't still believe in the magic of Christmas. Put together a five way parlay and get the miracle you deserve.
- 76ers at Knicks Under 219.5
- Lakers (+7.5) at Mavericks
- Bucks at Celtics (-165 ML)
- Grizzlies at Warriors Over 226
- Suns at Nuggets (-2.5)
Parlay that together we're talking a juicy +2000ish payout.
Happy Christmas and happy betting!
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