Happy holidays from The Weekly Showstopper!
If we learned anything this past week, it’s to expect the unexpected in this ever-changing sports landscape. We’ll keep you in the loop with the latest news, but always look out for more curveballs.
In this edition, we’re breaking down two great NBA games on Christmas Day: Warriors vs. Suns and Hawks vs. Knicks. Also, we’ll analyze a pro football matchup between the Colts and Cardinals. Which team will unwrap a big divisional boost?
Atlanta Hawks vs. New York Knicks
Saturday, December 25 | TV: ESPN
Thus far, both the Hawks and Knicks have struggled to rekindle their magic from last season. And with these squads now decimated by the number of players stuck in the NBA’s health and safety protocols, it could be an even tougher climb up the standings. For the Hawks, the status for Trae Young, Danilo Gallinari, and Clint Capela all remain murky. And for the Knicks, although they did get Obi Toppin cleared for action, starting center Nerlens Noel joined RJ Barrett, Quentin Grimes, Kevin Knox, Deuce McBride, and Immanuel Quickley on the protocols list. So, if this game moves forward as planned, it becomes a battle of which unit has more depth.
There’s still a chance the Knicks could get Barrett back in time for tip-off, plus Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier have stepped it up in their teammates’ absence. Kemba, who recently rejoined the rotation, will be called upon to play a bigger role because Derrick Rose just underwent right ankle surgery. The Hawks, on the other hand, have to rely on a trio of Cam Reddish, John Collins, and Bogdan Bogdanovic for their scoring punch. The way things currently stand, the Knicks do have the bigger overall talent advantage out of who’s left.
Golden State Warriors vs. Phoenix Suns
Saturday, December 25 | TV: ABC
The Warriors and Suns are neck-and-neck in the race for Western Conference supremacy. Both teams have been hot over their last 10 games, but the Suns are 14-2 at home and will be tough to unseat at the Footprint Center. Golden State will also be playing shorthanded with Andrew Wiggins, Jordan Poole, and Damion Lee on the protocols list. And Klay Thompson’s return from injury has unfortunately been pushed back to January. That means it’s all Steph Curry’s show against a Suns defense that ranks among the best in the league in opponent three-point shooting percentage.
Knock on wood, the Suns remarkably do not have any players on the league’s protocols list. They’ve split the season series with the Dubs at 1-1, with their last game turning into a blowout for Golden State. That means the Suns will be out for a measure of revenge in this nationally televised showdown. Head coach Monty Williams should have his club ready to pounce on the undermanned Dubs, though it won’t be surprising if Curry’s heroics manage to keep the score closer than anticipated.
Indianapolis Colts vs. Arizona Cardinals
Saturday, December 25 | TV: NFL Network
In the wild Week 15 of pro football, one of the biggest shockers was witnessing the Cardinals get trounced 30-12 by the Lions. Now they’ll try to bounce back against a Colts squad that just beat the Patriots 27-17 and blanked the Texans 31-0. So far this season, the Cards have had mixed results on their home field, posting losses to the Rams, Packers and Panthers, to go along with their three wins at State Farm Stadium. With wideout DeAndre Hopkins on the shelf with a torn MCL and running back James Conner dealing with a heel injury on a short turnaround, the once-potent Arizona offense has definitely lost some of its spark.
For the Colts, Jonathan Taylor has been an absolute machine, with a total of eight 100-yard rushing games. By the numbers, Arizona’s rush defense has been middle-of-the-road, so there’s a fair chance Taylor finds some running room to hit the century mark again. In fact, the Cardinals allowed Kutztown grad Craig Reynolds to top 100 yards in last week’s defeat. The Colts are mostly healthy on both sides of the ball, so they might choose to control the clock with Taylor on offense, and attempt to rattle Kyler Murray with their defensive pressure.