NBA Christmas Day Previews + Thursday Bowl Previews

Network Wins Hawaii Bowl with Oregon State (-3) over Boise State 38-23

THE NBA ROCKS YOUR CHRISTMAS DAY/NIGHT WITH A STOCKING STUFFED WITH GREAT HOOPS ACTION AS WE PREVIEW THE FIVE (5) BIG GAMES …

PLUS MORE COLLEGE BOWL ACTION AS WE CHECK OUT THURSDAY’S TWINBILL AS IT’S PIZZA AND POINSETTIAS ON THE DAY-AFTER-CHRISTMAS MENU

By Jim Hurley

And a Merry Christmas to you, too!

Hey, what would Dec. 25th be without a full day’s worth of NBA action? While you’re with family, friends and other loved ones there’s hard-court action ‘round the clock, and so let’s clue you in on some details … here’s your TV menu for Christmas Day:

(Note all records below are through Sunday Night’s games):

CHICAGO (10-16) at BROOKLYN (9-17) – 12:05 p.m. ET, ESPN

The first jump ball of the holiday is tossed up at the Barclays Center where the host Brooklyn Nets have proven to be one of the league’s truly dysfunctional teams – now it’s C Brook Lopez (broken foot – out for the year) who is the bearer of bad news, but did you know Jason Kidd’s club entered Monday’s home game against Indiana at 5-10 in conference play despite sporting the league’s largest payroll?

How come GM Billy King isn’t getting zinged more by the local/national media … hmmm.

Maybe the Bulls – who stunned the Nets in a seven-game first-round playoff series last year – can get back on track after losing 11 of their first 14 road games this season – but there’s more injured players than healthy ones these days on the Chicago side, though emotional C Joakim Noah did register an 18-rebound and 11-point game in last Saturday’s 100-84 win/cover against 3-point pup Cleveland.

Heaven knows nobody on the Nets can rebound the basketball!

OKLAHOMA CITY (22-5) at NEW YORK (8-18) – 2:30 p.m. ET, ABC

The $64,000 question in New York City is whether Knicks owner James Dolan fires head coach Mike Woodson before, after or perhaps during this Christmas Day game!

No doubt the Knicks have been an absolute mess this year – yes, we’re wondering why they get to host a mid-day national TV game here too! – and now here comes league scoring leader Kevin Durant (28.3 ppg) into “The Garden” to wreak havoc on a Knicks team that’s 4-10 at home following last weekend’s 95-87 spanking handed to ‘em by an 11-and-15 Memphis team.

Gotta believe that cat-quick G Russell Westbrook will be a major pain to a New York team that hasn’t fared well against athletic backcourt guys this year – does 25 points and 12 assists sound about right to you?

MIAMI (20-6) at LOS ANGELES LAKERS (13-14) – 5 p.m. ET, ABC

The beat goes on for the two-time defending champion Miami Heat – what, they needed more good news and so G Dwyane Wade went out and got engaged for Christmas! – but seriously everything is clicking for “The King” (that’s MVP-to-be LeBron James) and Company, and note in a recent game F Chris Bosh poured in a season-high 25 points against Sacramento while never-gets-old G Ray Allen had eight field goals in that game.

Obviously, no Kobe Bryant (knee) here for the Lakers, who are keeping fingers crossed F/C Pau Gasol (upper respiratory woes) can log major minutes here … before they trade him!

SWEEP MY NBA CHRISTMAS DAY STOCKING STUFFERS!
5 TV Games - Get The Best of All Day Action

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Bulls-Nets (ESPN)  Thunder-Knicks (ABC)  Heat-Lakers (ABC) 
Rockets-Spurs (ESPN)  Clippers-Warriors (ESPN)

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HOUSTON (18-10) at SAN ANTONIO (21-6) – 8:05 p.m. ET, ESPN

Wonder if Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich promised NBA Commish David Stern that he would play his “Big 3” of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili here … hmmm.

The Spurs – who sport the Western Conference’s top defense while yielding a mere 95.3 points a game – will make it top priority to get in the grill of Houston gunner James Harden, who did stagger through a 3-of-14 FG shooting game last week.

So, the likes of long-armed Kawhi Leonard figures to be a key component for San Antonio here, but something tells us Harden will get up 25 shots if it kills ‘em on this Christmas Night.

LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS (20-9) at GOLDEN STATE (15-13) – 10:35 p.m. ET, ESPN

Can we ask you a quickie question:

Are the LA Clippers the quietest 20-win team around in this man’s NBA?

No doubt that new head coach Doc Rivers has had a calming effect on this young team that these days sports four players averaging 15-or-more points including born-again G J.J. Redick (15.8 ppg before the injury) and electric PG Chris Paul (19.2 ppg and 11.3 assists per game), and you might recall that the Clips hammered Golden State 126-115 in the second game of the season when Paul poured in 42 points and C Deandre Jordan yanked down 17 boards.

Editor’s Note:

Get all the College Football Bowl Games continuing on with Thursday’s two tilts – that’s Pittsburgh vs. Bowling Green in the Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl and Utah State vs. Northern Illinois in the Poinsettia Bowl -- plus all the NFL Week 17 games, too when you check with us here at Jim Hurley’s Network.

And, of course, make sure you’re all aboard for the NBA Christmas Day/Night games plus all the NBA and College Basketball hardwood action this week/weekend action either online here at www.jimhurley.com or at our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453.

THE COLLEGE BOWL REPORT –

Here’s a look at the two bowl games slated for Thursday, Dec. 26th:

LITTLE CAESAR’S PIZZA BOWL – at Detroit, MI
PITTSBURGH (6-6) vs. BOWLING GREEN (10-3) – 6 p.m. ET, ESPN

Surprise, surprise …

Here’s yet another bowl game where an acting or interim head coach is stepping into the breach for his “15 minutes of fame” as the exodus of Dave Clawson – a solid ball coach – to Wake Forest opens the door for a short stay by Adam Scheler, but note Bowling Green already made its 2014-and-beyond hire with Eastern Illinois’ Dino Babers getting tapped back on Dec. 18th … follow all of that, folks?

In any event, Bowling Green – a 4-point betting favorite here – sports the country’s fifth-ranked defense and one that allows a mere 14.8 points per game against a Pittsburgh club that finally has some stability at its head-coaching post as second-year boss Paul Chryst actually steers the Panthers into their sixth bowl game in as many years.

The Panthers did drop four of their final six regular-season games this year but they’re counting on DT Aaron Donald – the winner of the Nagurski, Lombardi, Bednarik and Outland Trophies – to disrupt the Bowling Green offense starring QB Matt Johnson, who aired five TDs and threw for393 yards in a stirring 47-27 upset win against 3-point fav Northern Illinois in the recent Mid-American Conference Championship Game in Detroit. Yup, right here on this field!

The Panthers will look to protect QB Tom Savage, who has been sacked an FBS-high 41 times, but if he can spot up WR Tyler Boyd (77 receptions and 1,001 yards this season) than this ACC club could be a “live dog” inside the confines of Ford Field.

Spread Notes – Bowling Green is 10-3 ATS (against the spread) this year and that includes a current five-game spread winning streak. The BG Falcons are 12-4 vig-wise away dating back to late in the 2011 season. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh’s a rotten 4-8 against the odds this season and the Panthers are 2-5 ATS in bowl tilts the past 10 years.

POINSETTIA BOWL – at San Diego, CA
UTAH STATE (8-5) vs. #23 NORTHERN ILLINOIS (12-1) – 9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

Hope you like your Mid-American Conference ‘ballers!

After you’ve checked out MAC champ Bowling Green, next up on this day-after-Christmas card is runner-up Northern Illinois, who once-upon-a-time sported BCS bowl hopes before getting crushed by the BG Falcons by some 20 points.

No question QB Jordan Lynch – who this year has thrown for 2,676 yards with 23 TDs and rushed for another 1,881 yards with 22 scores – was humbled big-time in that loss to Bowling Green (to say nothing of having his long-shot Heisman Trophy candidacy shot to hell!) and so let’s see what type of “statement game” he plays here while Utah State’s hard-hitting defense is for real after it ranked 12th nationally and had held eight foes to 20 points or less.

One major problem with the Aggies is that they’ve been bowl busts – just 2-6 SU (straight-up) all-time – and here we’ll keep an eye on backup-turned-starting QB Darell Garretson who was removed from the 24-17 Mountain West Conference Championship Game loss to Fresno State with a head injury/concussion – you will recall Utah State lost starting QB Chuckie Keeton for the year with a knee injury back in an October 4th loss to BYU.

Spread Notes – Northern Illinois is 8-5 against the Las Vegas numbers this year and that makes the NIU Huskies a collective 32-18-2 ATS since the start of the 2010 season (and that’s a snazzy .640 winning rate). On the flip side, Utah State is a rock-solid 8-5 against the odds this season and the Aggies are 10-3-1 ATS away the past two years.

NOTE: There’s more College Bowl action in the next Jim Sez as we preview Friday’s Three (3) Bowl Games plus a couple of NFL Week 17 quick-hitter previews too!

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