Extra Pass: Explosive Warriors-Suns game headlines Christmas slate

Published December 25, 2021, 4:00 PMMiguel Flores

It’s a holiday treat for hoop fans as the two best teams in the league square off as part of the Christmas Day schedule.

The Filipino Christmas doesn't end when the titos and titas pack up the post-dinner drinking session on the 25th. For Filipino basketball fans, Christmas ends on December 26. 

As Pinoys rise from their food comas on the day after Christmas, we get NBA games for breakfast until lunch – a true holiday blessing.

While health and safety protocols might have put a damper on several of the scheduled Christmas games, the two best teams in the league still meet on Sunday as the Golden State Warriors (26-6) visit the Phoenix Suns (26-5), live at 6:00 AM on NBA League Pass.

The two already met twice this season, splitting their first two meetings in exciting fashion. The Suns shut down Steph Curry on December 1  for a convincing win before the Warriors retaliated with a wire-to-wire over the Devin Booker-less Suns three days later.

Another boon for this game is both teams should have all of their star players ready to go for tomorrow’s game as none of their stars have breached health and safety protocols as of writing. The Warriors do have Andrew Wiggins, Jordan Poole, and Damion Lee in protocols, but their deep bench has filled their roles admirably over the past week.

The Warriors have been smoldering in December, winning eight of their 11 games this month. Steph Curry has continued to play like an MVP and is heading into Sunday’s game with a 46-point explosion under his belt from Friday. We may not be getting Kevin Durant or Giannis Antetokounmpo this Christmas, but at least Steph is still set to put on a show.

Ditto for the Suns and the Point Messiah, Chris Paul. At the age of 36, Paul is not only still playing like an All-Star, but he’s also been the most durable of the Suns’ Big 3. At this point, it’s an NBA Christmas tradition to have Paul throwing lobs and dissecting defenses. From way back in New Orleans to Lob City to now in the Valley, Paul has somehow never missed a beat, despite most point guards of his size breaking down at this point in their careers. Call it a Christmas miracle.

The fact that every other Christmas game scheduled will be missing superstars only shines a brighter light on the matchup. Never mind the fact that these are the two best teams in defensive rating. They’re also both top 10 in offensive rating—the basketball will be sublime.

Which is a long way to say that whoever can make this game ugly will win. Both these teams flex on opponents with ball and player movement with Paul doing more traditional point guard work for the Suns while Curry opens spaces for his teammates by constantly moving without the ball. This 2014 Spurs-esque offensive has proven unstoppable for any team that can execute it. There have been very few defenses that have effectively clogged this free-flowing game.

Will either team deploy a modified zone? Will Steve Kerr pull out another scheme as wacky as the triangle-and-two defense he deployed against the Brooklyn Nets? How will Monty Williams opt to match up when the Warriors go small? It’s these small details that make matchups between top teams incredibly interesting.

In the end, this might just be one game for either team. We probably won’t get the full breadth of their game plans, until they meet in the playoffs. For now, we can enjoy their third regular season game as that last-minute ampao from our favorite ninong/ninang.

There’s also the Los Angeles Lakers-Brooklyn Nets game to sink our teeth into at 9:00 AM on TV5. The Lakers and Nets will be without Anthony Davis and Kevin Durant, respectively. There’s a massive list of unavailable players for both teams, which really let the steam out of what should have been one of the biggest games of the season.

Still, we’re getting LeBron James and James Harden. Those two should be enough reason to turn the game on while you snack on leftovers from Christmas dinner.

For dessert, you can catch the Dallas Mavericks take on the Utah Jazz live at 11:30 AM on NBA TV Philippines (available on Smart's GigaPlay app and Cignal TV).