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NBA Christmas Day games preview, TV schedule

New York Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony reaches for the ball as Washington Wizards’ John Wall drives to the basketball in this 2012 photo. The two teams will meet this year on Christmas. (Photo by John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

Just last year, Washington Wizards guards John Wall and Bradley Beal expressed hope that they would one day get to play on Christmas Day.

On Thursday, they’ll get their chance as the Wizards lead off the slate of NBA Christmas games against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden – Washington’s first on the holiday since losing to the Cavaliers in 2008.

The Christmas games are typically loaded with marquee matchups and this year is no different, with the headliner being LeBron James’s first regular season game against the Heat in Miami since signing with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Washington Wizards at New York Knicks

Time: 12 p.m. ET

TV: ESPN

Previous matchup this season: Nov. 4, Wizards def. Knicks, 98-83, in New York

At 19-7, the Wizards have matched their best start in franchise history, set in 1974. Star point guard John Wall is scoring 17.8 points per game and is second in the league in assists per game with 10.5.

Meanwhile, the Knicks have lost five straight to fall to 5-25 and have yet to find an identity this season under first-year Coach Derek Fisher.

Oklahoma City Thunder at San Antonio Spurs 

Time: 2:30 p.m. ET

TV: ABC

Previous matchup this season: N/A

With the return of stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook after early season injuries, the Thunder (13-15) have won eight of its past 10 games. However, Durant has been forced to sit out three straight because of a sprained right ankle and is considered day-to-day.

After dropping four consecutive games, the Spurs (18-11) picked up a much-needed win against the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday. The defending champions are currently in seventh place in the Western Conference.

Cleveland Cavaliers at Miami Heat 

Time: 5 p.m. ET

TV: ABC

Previous matchup this season: Oct. 11, Cleveland Cavaliers def. Miami Heat, 122-119, in Miami (preseason game)

James will make his first regular season return to South Beach since signing with his hometown Cavaliers in July. After a bit of a rocky start to the season that included a four-game losing streak, the Cavaliers (16-10) have had a strong December, winning eight of their 11 games.

The Heat (13-15), which still has two thirds of the Big Three members in Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, is still a top eight team in the weak Eastern Conference despite being under .500.

Los Angeles Lakers at Chicago Bulls

Time: 8 p.m. ET

TV: TNT

Previous matchup this season: N/A

Kobe Bryant surpassed NBA legend Michael Jordan as the third all-time leading scorer earlier this month, but it hasn’t been enough to lift the struggling Lakers (8-19), who are second to last in the Western Conference.

The Chicago Bulls have won three straight and have the talent to be a top team in the East, especially when former MVP Derrick Rose, who scored 29 points against the Toronto Raptors on Monday, is in the lineup.

Golden State Warriors at Los Angeles Clippers 

Time: 10:30 p.m. ET

TV: TNT

Previous matchup this season: Nov. 5, Golden State Warriors def. Los Angeles Clippers, 121-104, in Oakland, Calif.

The league-leading Warriors (23-3) have been the team to beat this year. Guards Stephen Curry (23.5 ppg) and Klay Thompson (21.7 ppg) score over 40 percent of Golden State’s 108.3 points per game average, second in the NBA.

The Clippers (19-9), with all-stars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, are fourth overall in points per game (106.9) but only 19th overall in points allowed per game (101.1).

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