The 2011-12 NBA season tips off on Christmas Day, with five games being played across the country -- including the Boston Celtics and New York Knicks squaring off at noon EDT at Madison Square Garden in New York City (TNT).
After the Celtics and Knicks, the Dallas Mavericks will host the Miami Heat in a rematch of the 2011 NBA Finals at 2:30 p.m. EDT (ABC). The Los Angeles Lakers will host the Chicago Bulls at 5:00 p.m. EDT (ABC), the Oklahoma City Thunder will host the Orlando Magic at 8:00 p.m. EDT (ESPN) and the Golden State Warriors host the L.A. Clippers at 10:30 p.m. EDT (ESPN).
Who's going to win? I offer my picks after the jump.
NBA Picks 2011-2012 - December 25, 2011
Boston Vs. New York: Final Score: Knicks 88, Celtics 83 - Normally, this should be a game that the Celtics can win. However, they likely won't have Paul Pierce -- the team's leading scorer for over a decade. Without Pierce, expect the Knicks to have a slight advantage and win the NBA's first game of the new season.
Mavericks Vs. Heat: Final Score: Heat 96, Mavericks 88 - LeBron James and Dwyane Wade had an entire offseason (plus a little more) to sit around and think about what could have been. If you don't think they are motivated, you are crazy. Miami, bolstered by the addition of Shane Battier, should win this game with revenge on the mind.
Los Angeles Vs. Chicago: Final Score: Bulls 104, Lakers 94 - Kobe Bryant or not, the Lakers are missing some pieces (like Lamar Odom -- traded to Dallas -- and Andrew Bynum -- suspended for four games). The Bulls, meanwhile, have reloaded with Richard Hamilton and still have reigning MVP Derrick Rose and Carlos Boozer. You do the math.
Oklahoma City Vs. Orlando: Final Score: Thunder 106, Magic 86 - This could be a big year for Kevin Durant and the Thunder, the one where they finally take the next step and compete for the NBA title. Meanwhile, Orlando is on the verge of falling into a rebuilding stage, pending on Dwight Howard's decision to stay or go. OKC is just the better (and more athletic) team right now, and it should win.
Golden State Vs. Los Angeles: Final Score: Warriors 98, Clippers 96 - Going out on a limb here, but I think that Monta Ellis and Steph Curry (if he plays, which is still a big if right now) spoil the coming out party for Chris Paul and Blake Griffin's new-look Clippers. Ellis can score at ease, and I predict that he'll have a big game.