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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Tuesday, December 24, 2013 at 4:00 PM

Merry Christmas! The NBA decided to take over the Christmas Day sports schedule by providing what they imagined would be marquee matchups that would run from noon to midnight. Unfortunately, they didn’t know:

*The New York Knicks would be lousy (currently 9-18)

*The Brooklyn Nets would be lousy (also currently 9-18)

*The Chicago Bulls would lose Derrick Rose AGAIN (currently 10-16)

*The Golden State Warriors would be a disappointment (only 16-13)

So, today’s five-game holiday celebration isn’t exactly something you want to deck the halls with! But, the matchups will still likely provide money-making opportunities for handicappers willing to spend some time working the numbers and finding edges.

To help you get that accomplished, here are current offensive and defensive “efficiency” rankings. Efficiency is points divided by possessions. That helps you avoid illusions created by teams who play very fast or very slow basketball. There are several extreme teams in that regard on the Christmas Day schedule, so make sure you’re making picks based on reality!

Matchups are presented in rotation order…


12:05 p.m. ET on ESPN

Chicago: #29 on offense, #5 on defense, #28 in pace

Brooklyn: #15 on offense, #27 on defense, #24 in pace

The media has been complaining at great lengths about the Brooklyn offense this season. A lot of that is pace related. This team is slow as molasses, but ranks about league average in per-play efficiency once you’ve accounted for that. It’s the DEFENSE that’s truly been horrible. Slowing things down has helped hide the fact that the team can’t guard anybody. Losing Brook Lopez for the season just exacerbates the issue. Likely to be an ugly game that only a sports bettor could love (and, even then, just barely).


2:30 p.m. ET on ABC

Oklahoma City: #7 on offense, #3 on defense, #3 in pace (tied with LAL)

New York: #19 on offense, #22 on defense, #29 in pace

Things were awful were New York already. Then, Carmelo Anthony sprained his ankle the other night. Oklahoma City can name the score here. If their stars are flat after spending Christmas Eve in New York, or are otherwise bummed that they have to be on the road for Christmas, we could have an interesting afternoon. Talentwise, you have a championship threat from the powerful West playing a 9-18 team from the horrible East.


5 p.m. ET on ABC

Miami: #2 on offense, #8 on defense, #18 in pace

LA Lakers: #22 on offense, #18 on defense, #3 in pace (tied with OKC)

People sometimes forget how great Miami’s offense is. They play at a league average pace, which reduces raw production. On a per-possession basis they’re #2 (behind only red hot Portland) because they have so much weaponry. The Lakers have been a pleasant surprise in the sense that the season isn’t a complete disaster. They’ll only compete here if Miami coasts…which they’re known to do as decisive favorites.


8:05 p.m. ET on ESPN

Houston: #3 on offense, #10 on defense, #6 in pace

San Antonio: #6 on offense, #2 on defense, #9 in pace

Clearly the best game of the day in terms of the standings and the efficiency numbers. The Spurs are 22-6, while Houston is 18-11. You see nothing but top ten rankings across the board…even in pace! Everyone seems to think Houston only plays track meets, while San Antonio goes slow in a set-up offense. San Antonio is actually very close to Houston in pace this season. Hopefully prime time viewers will get a holiday classic that will foreshadow a fantastic Western Conference playoff campaign.


10:35 p.m. ET on ESPN

LA Clippers: #4 on offense, #7 on defense, #8 in pace

Golden State: #13 on offense, #6 on defense, #5 in pace

Almost as good as Rockets/Spurs. But, Golden State has been a disappointment offensively. That’s been hidden by their very fast pace. The team isn’t as efficient as you might have believed. It’s actually the Clippers (led by Chris Paul’s playmaking skills) that have the better offense in context. Note how well both of these teams are grading out defensively. Don’t let fast paces hide the ability to get stops from you!

JIM HURLEY isn’t going to give away any side or total hints here in the NOTEBOOK. We’ve helped you get up to speed on the TV teams. He’ll help you GET THE MONEY! You can purchase the final word for Christmas Day right here at the website with your credit card Wednesday morning before the first tipoff. Take care of business with a few clicks then get back to your holiday festivities.

It’s back to football for us Thursday. We’ll preview the Poinsettia Bowl matching Utah State and Northern Illinois in our Friday report…then the Fight Hunger Bowl featuring Washington and BYU on Friday. If you have any questions about our bowl package, or combination packages featuring football and basketball, talk to the NETWORK representative in the Vegas-Sports-Masters office at 1-888-777-4155 on Thursday.

Best wishes for a MERRY CHRISTMAS from everyone here at JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!

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