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Christmas Rematches in the Playoffs

Posted by Neil Paine on December 27, 2010

These days, the NBA always schedules its Christmas Day games to be marquee matchups, with announcers copiously throwing around phrases like "playoff preview" during the broadcast. But historically, how often have holiday combatants actually gone on to meet again in the postseason? And when they did meet, how often did the Christmas winner repeat their victory?

Here are all 33 instances in NBA/ABA/BAA history where a Christmas game foreshadowed a playoff matchup:

Date Lg Home Pts Away Pts OT Xmas Winner PO winner
12/25/1956 NBA FTW* 89 MNL 100 0 MNL MNL
12/25/1958 NBA DET* 98 MNL 97 1 DET MNL
12/25/1959 NBA PHW* 129 SYR 121 0 PHW PHW
12/25/1947 BAA BLB 87 CHS 70 0 BLB BLB
12/25/1948 BAA ROC 90 STB 82 0 ROC ROC
12/25/1949 NBA MNL 72 FTW 58 0 MNL MNL
12/25/1952 NBA MNL 90 INO 73 0 MNL MNL
12/25/1952 NBA NYK 97 BOS 84 0 NYK NYK
12/25/1957 NBA PHW 115 BOS 105 0 PHW BOS
12/25/1959 NBA STL 112 MNL 96 0 STL STL
12/25/1971 ABA UTS 150 INA 129 0 UTS INA
12/25/1973 NBA NYK 100 CAP 102 0 CAP NYK
12/25/1976 NBA WSB 117 CLE 99 0 WSB WSB
12/25/1977 NBA NYK 113 PHI 110 0 NYK PHI
12/25/1977 NBA SEA 96 LAL 111 0 LAL SEA
12/25/1977 NBA WSB 100 ATL 93 0 WSB WSB
12/25/1979 NBA WSB 92 PHI 95 0 PHI PHI
12/25/1981 NBA PHO 101 LAL 104 0 LAL LAL
12/25/1982 NBA NYK 110 NJN 112 1 NJN NYK
12/25/1982 NBA POR 95 SEA 88 0 POR POR
12/25/1990 NBA CHI 98 DET 86 0 CHI CHI
12/25/1992 NBA CHI 89 NYK 77 0 CHI CHI
12/25/1993 NBA PHO 111 HOU 91 0 PHO HOU
12/25/1995 NBA PHO 100 SAS 105 0 SAS SAS
12/25/1997 NBA UTA 107 HOU 103 0 UTA UTA
12/25/1999 NBA IND 101 NYK 90 0 IND IND
12/25/2000 NBA LAL 104 POR 109 0 POR LAL
12/25/2002 NBA NJN 117 BOS 81 0 NJN NJN
12/25/2002 NBA ORL 104 DET 99 0 ORL DET
12/25/2003 NBA LAL 87 HOU 99 0 HOU LAL
12/25/2003 NBA SAC 103 DAL 111 0 DAL SAC
12/25/2004 NBA IND 93 DET 98 0 DET DET
12/25/2009 NBA ORL 77 BOS 86 0 BOS BOS
(* = Neutral site)

Since there were 220 Christmas Day games in NBA/ABA/BAA history prior to this year, that means 15% have resulted in playoff rematches (with the Christmas winner winning the series 63.6% of the time).

However, the league has been more conscious of scheduling major showdowns on the holiday in recent years; in the 1980s, the rematch rate was 13%, but it was 31% in the 1990s and 27% in the 2000s. And since the 1990s, 52.4% of Christmas Day slates have contained at least one matchup that was reprised in the playoffs (55% since 2000). With the league expanding the Christmas schedule to a record 5 games in recent seasons, the odds are higher than ever that we'll see at least one of Saturday's matchups get revisited in May or June.

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