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The NBA's Christmas present to its fans is a rematch of last season's championship series. Kobe and Co. will be able to see if they can cool off the white-hot Celtics, winners of 17 games in a row. The game, set to begin at 3 p.m., will be televised by ABC (Ch. 4 locally).

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The NBA is set for its busiest Christmas in nearly three decades.

The league has five games on Thursday, highlighted by the NBA finals rematch between the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers. It's the largest slate of Dec. 25 games since 1979, when there were also five, and comes just two years after there was only one game.

Despite having the NBA's greatest rivalry, the Celtics and Lakers haven't met on Christmas since 1970, when Los Angeles beat Boston 123-113. This will be the Lakers' 35th game on the holiday ...

With more than one-quarter of the season complete, it's getting harder to find more than three legitimate contenders for the NBA title.

Boston, the Los Angeles Lakers and Cleveland have been so much better than anyone else that it seems they're a lock for the conference finals. Still to be determined would be the Lakers' opponent in the Western Conference.

Cleveland was beating teams by 13.1 points per game, with Los Angeles (10.3) and Boston (10.0) not far behind. There has never been a season in which three teams had a double-digit point differential. ...

With San Antonio's Manu Ginobili off to a slow start after his ankle injury, perhaps the sixth-man award is headed to another Texas city.

Jason Terry has been terrific as a reserve for Dallas, averaging 21.6 points in 19 games. His move to that role helped the Mavericks recover from a 2-7 start to bring a 14-10 record into their game at New Jersey on Friday.

"It's a situation where I know what my role is," Terry said. "For us to be a good team I have to do my job consistently every night, and it's just something that throughout my career that I don't think I've done to the best of my abilities and this year I'm really focusing on it."

Terry started five games in early November and the Mavs lost four of them. They lost again in Terry's first game after moving back to the bench, then won 12 of the next 15. Terry was held below 19 points only once in that span.

Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said he won't know what his ideal starting lineup is until his team is fully healthy, but he probably won't be changing Terry's role anytime soon.

"I think right now him coming off the bench is the best option for us," Carlisle said. "That could change as time goes on, but so far if you analyze the results we've been better with him off the bench." ...

One of the strangest stories of the 2008-09 NBA season has to be the Memphis Grizzlies' kicking the tires of Darius Miles to see if he has anything left, while the Portland Trail Blazers sit back and hope that he does not. The twist to Memphis' signing of Miles is that if Miles plays at least 10 games for the Grizzlies, the Blazers will have to add his $9.3 million salary to their current cap figure, and do the same next season, costing the team $18 million in cap room over the next two years.