Webster serenades camera with Christmas tunes
Christmas has always been a showcase for the NBA, which began its season almost two months ago, but Wednesday's games ultimately may prove what we already can see on paper: The Western Conference is far superior to the East, and the proof also will be in the play.
Chicago Bulls at Brooklyn Nets (noon ET, ESPN): Both were expected to be among the top four teams in the East, but the disappointment hit even before they lost key players to injury. The Bulls (10-16) don't have Derrick Rose or Luol Deng and might not have Jimmy Butler or Kirk Hinrich, too. They haven't won consecutive games in more than a month. The Nets (9-18) lost center Brook Lopez for the season to a broken foot. This game will look nothing like the seven-game, first-round playoff series won by Chicago last season. What Nets coach Jason Kidd said after their last defeat isn't a good sign: "We're kind of getting comfortable with losing and we've got to make a stand with that because when things get tough, do we just give in? And most of the time right now we do." Don't get your hopes up.
Oklahoma City Thunder at New York Knicks (2:30, ABC): Carmelo Anthony is being called a game-time decision because of a left ankle sprain and Raymond Felton (groin) has been ruled out. It probably won't matter. The Knicks (9-18) already have lost games by 31 and 41 points at Madison Square Garden and the Thunder (22-5) are elite. The Knicks are 0-8 against West teams, losing by an average margin of 10.1 -- with Anthony. This one could get dubbed the Christmas Day Massacre.
Miami Heat at Los Angeles Lakers (5, ABC): Coach Mike D'Antoni just called himself an "idiot" for telling fans of the Lakers (13-15) to root for another team after a 27-point loss to the Phoenix Suns. There's no Kobe Bryant vs. LeBron James storyline. James is averaging 30 points in the last 13 games against L.A., which is thin on ball-handlers even if Jordan Farmar can play. The Heat (21-6) will likely create a lot of turnovers which will lead to transition baskets and total domination.
Houston Rockets at San Antonio Spurs (8, ESPN): James Harden will be a game-time decision for the Rockets (18-11) because of a left ankle sprain. He has played well vs. the Spurs (22-6) by averaging 30.5 points in their last four meetings. Patrick Beverley is out with a broken hand so that puts all of the pressure on Jeremy Lin to produce. Still, there should be a lot of three-point shooting as both teams have strikers from deep. The Rockets have attempted the most threes in the NBA.
Los Angeles Clippers at Golden State Warriors (10:30, ESPN): Jamal Crawford is averaging 20 points per game since becoming a starter with the injury to J.J. Redick for the Clippers (20-9). David Lee has had nine consecutive double-doubles for the Warriors (16-13), who are just 4-4 at home since Nov. 20. Chris Paul and Stephen Curry combined for 80 points when these teams opened the season against each other Oct. 31.