NEW YORK (AP) — Not since the Kobe-Shaq breakup have two rivals spent so many Christmases together.
Golden State and Cleveland are playing the holiday’s heaviest-hyped matchup for the third straight season. The same teams hadn’t met that many times on Christmas since the Lakers and Miami squared off from 2004-06.
This time the Warriors, as the NBA champions, are home for the holiday after having to travel to LeBron James’ house last season.
“It’s great. It’s no fun playing on the road on Christmas,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “It’s great playing at home. I always enjoy Christmas Day home games.”
The Lakers-Heat trilogy began immediately after Los Angeles had dealt Shaquille O’Neal to Miami, making it an obvious addition to the schedule because of his feud with Bryant, even though the Lakers had fallen from championship contention.
Dwyane Wade played in those games, beginning what’s been one of the most successful Christmas careers. His 10 wins in 12 appearances are the most in NBA history, and his 301 points are tied with James for third on the list.
Now together, they will to lead Cleveland to its 20th win in 22 games.
A look at the games on the schedule of the 70th edition of the NBA on Christmas:
PHILADELPHIA 76ERS AT NEW YORK KNICKS, Noon.
The 76ers hope Joel Embiid can return from a back injury to play in their first Christmas Day game since 2001. The Knicks have played a league-high 51 games on Christmas and their 22 victories are tied with the Lakers for the most. They better enjoy being home for the holidays because they won’t be many times after Christmas. New York, tied for the NBA low with two road victories, plays 16 of its next 20 games away from Madison Square Garden after Monday.
CLEVELAND CAVALIERS AT GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS, 3 p.m. EST
Stephen Curry isn’t expected back and Isaiah Thomas isn’t quite ready, so these familiar foes won’t look like they did last June or will if they meet again next June. Their first meeting this season is on the same floor as their last one, the Warriors’ victory in Game 5 of the NBA Finals. The team that won the title followed by also taking the Christmas Day matchup the next season after their two previous championship clashes, with the Cavaliers erasing a 3-1 deficit in the 2016 Finals and then a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter last Dec. 25 at home.
WASHINGTON WIZARDS AT BOSTON CELTICS, 5:30 p.m. EST
It’s hard to make history on a franchise with as much history as theirs, but the Celtics will just by stepping on the floor Monday. They’ve never played a home game on Christmas, with 28 road contests and two at neutral sites. Expect them to be rude hosts to a Washington team returning to Boston for the first time since Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, a series in which the teams exchanged hard fouls and bad blood in what’s become a heated rivalry recently.
HOUSTON ROCKETS AT OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER, 8 p.m. EST
Perhaps it’s time for Carmelo Anthony’s breakout performance with the Thunder, because nobody has been better on Christmas. He has averaged 33.2 points in five games, tops among all players who made at least four appearances. This is the Thunder’s first chance to see what Anthony and Paul George mean in this matchup after the Rockets easily dispatched them in the first round of the playoffs. James Harden has scored 51 points in his last two games, but the Rockets lost both of them after winning 14 in a row.
MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES AT LOS ANGELES LAKERS, 10:30 p.m. EST
The Timberwolves get another chance after losing in Oklahoma City last year in their first appearance on Christmas. Christmas games may be new to the Wolves but not to fans in Minnesota, as the Lakers made their first 11 appearances on the holiday from 1949-59 when they were based in Minneapolis. The Lakers have gone on to play 19 straight years on Christmas, so rookies Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma better get used to having holiday plans.
AP Sports Writer Janie McCauley in Oakland, California contributed to this report.
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