NBA's Starting Five On Christmas


The NBA's Christmas gift to basketball fans is a five-pack of games.

For the second straight year, the pro hoops league will tip off a quintet of contests, this time all on networks owned by The Walt Disney Co. All told, ESPN and ABC will present more than 12 game hours on Dec. 25.

ESPN starts the action at noon (ET) with the Miami Heat and Dwayne Wade visiting Madison Square Garden and the New York Knicks. This will mark the 45th time the Knicks have played on Christmas, perhaps most memorably in 1984, when Bernard King scored a holiday record 60 points against the New Jersey Nets.

ABC then steps to the line for a pair. At 2:30 p.m., the Boston Celtics visit the Orlando Magic, in a rematch of last year's Eastern Conference semifinals.

Then, it's the big one: LeBron James and Shaquille O'Neal visiting Kobe Bryant and the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center at 5 p.m. The game will mark the 12th time Shaq and Kobe, the former Lakers teammates, will play on Christmas, according to league officials.

ESPN wraps up the day with a night-time doubleheader: the Los Angeles Clippers, still minus top draft pick Blair Griffin, visit Steve Nash and the Phoenix Suns at 8 p.m., followed by Carmelo Anthony's Denver Nuggets and the Paul Allen-owned Portland TrailBlazers at 10:30 p.m.
Last year, ESPN averaged some 2.19 million watchers for the New Orleans Hornets and Magic in the early window, while TNT's night-time coverage of the Washington Wizards-Cavaliers and Dallas-Mavericks-TrailBlazers, pulled in 2.14 million and 1.57 million, respectively.
As for ABC, San Antonio Spurs-Suns drew 5.7 million in the first of its two games, while the 2008 Finals rematch between the Lakers-Celtics scored just under 10 million watchers, 9.98 million to be exact, according to Nielsen data.