With 2023 on the horizon, this time of the year is often considered a time of celebration, of feasts, of merrily changing up expectations.
In keeping with the festive spirit, we’re bringing you five straight nights of CrunchTime, beginning Monday and running through Friday.
Streaming at 8:30 p.m. ET on the NBA App, Jared Greenberg and 2016 NBA Champion Channing Frye will take you around the league, offering a banquet of mind-blowing plays, joyous jams and memory-making moments throughout the night.
The crew will also offer some betting and fantasy basketball advice for those looking to dunk on the competition.
Here are some of the must-see matchups and storylines from Monday night’s seven-game slate.
The Nets and Cavaliers seek the post-holiday spotlight
Donovan Mitchell already has visions of playing next Christmas dancing in his head.
For now, two of the best teams in the East will take the national stage Monday night at 7 p.m. ET on NBA TV, as the Nets and Cavaliers square off.
Brooklyn will be looking for their ninth-straight win. After a tumultuous start to the season, they’re fourth in the East, just a half-game behind Cleveland.
Kevin Durant has been the team’s foundation, rising to fourth in the latest Kia MVP Ladder.
He has played in all but one game this season, averaging the best true shooting percentage of his storied career.
Mitchell is no slouch himself, ranking ninth on the latest Kia MVP Ladder. The Cavaliers, third in the conference, have been especially fierce at home so far this year, tallying a 16-3 record in the Land.
Mitchell is joined by former Nets Caris LeVert and Jarrett Allen, among others. The Nets feature former Cavalier Joe Harris, as well as a man named Kyrie, who the Cleveland faithful may recall.
Which team will stake a claim in the East – and make their case for a starring spot on Christmas Day 2023 – this Monday night?
Will the Heat or Timberwolves warm to expectations?
The Heat still have Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, Kyle Lowry – and the foundation of the team that was just one shot away from the Finals is basically intact.
The Timberwolves swung big this offseason, bringing in three-time All-Star Rudy Gobert to pair with iridescent talent Anthony Edwards and franchise cornerstone Karl-Anthony Towns.
But both teams find themselves with records of 16-17 as the new calendar year dawns, hanging on the edge of playoff contention.
Butler has been battling injuries, as have Towns and Gobert. D’Angelo Russell and Victor Oladipohaven’t been able to step in with consistency. The Heat’s offense hasn’t been so hot; the Timberwolves have struggled with consistency.
With the season rolling along, crunch time is approaching for these two franchises. Will either potential contender find their form?
Hornets seek flowers in Rose City
In the second game of our NBA TV doubleheader, Charlotte heads to Portland to play the Trail Blazers at 10 p.m. ET, bringing us a matchup of electric guards and excitably quotable play-by-play announcers in Eric Collins and Kevin Calabro.
Don’t look now, but the Hornets are starting to resemble their hopes. LaMelo Ball is back, bringing his basketball brilliance, creativity and flair back to the lineup. Gordon Hayward’s settling in, steadying the ship with an array of considered moves. They’re 2-3 in their last five, fresh off a 134-130 triumph over the Lakers. It’s not world-beating, but it’s a start.
On the Blazers’ side, new all-time franchise leading scorer Damian Lillard has stepped it up this month, averaging 29.9 PPG, including 34 in a recent 120-107 loss to the Nuggets.
The team features an array of talent, from the pyrotechnic athleticism of Shaedon Sharpe to the steadying force of Jusuf Nurkic. Jerami Grant is a two-way talent; Josh Hart, Justise Winslow and Drew Eubanks are eager for the dirty work.
But Portland has lost three straight, dropping into play-in position in the Western Conference.
Which team will take a step forward this Monday night?
Catch that and all the rest of the night’s action, on CrunchTime, streaming on the NBA App. Here’s the entirety of Monday night’s slate:
7 p.m. ET: Nets @ Cavaliers
7 p.m. ET: Clippers @ Pistons
7:30 p.m. ET: Timberwolves @ Heat
8 p.m. ET: Rockets @ Bulls
8 p.m. ET: Pacers @ Pelicans
8 p.m. ET: Jazz @ Spurs
10 p.m. ET: Hornets @ Trail Blazers