Ezra Shaw/Associated Press

Each year, millions of people around the globe use advent calendars to celebrate and count down the days toward Christmas. Whether the calendar revealed ornaments, festive images or chocolate of a bottom-tier quality, everyone who celebrates Christmas will remember their significance in the year’s final month.

So to get into the holiday spirit, the team at PointAfter created an NBA Advent Calendar. For each date in December, we’ll peg the best game to watch on the schedule.

As you might expect, that oftentimes means star players and high-profile teams are making the cut. We did our best to loop in a variety, but you won’t be seeing teams like the Brooklyn Nets or Philadelphia 76ers (condolences to those respective fan bases for their ongoing woes).

Regardless of what holidays you celebrate, basketball fans can rejoice with the promise of marquee matchups throughout the (holiday) season.

Dec. 1: Dallas Mavericks @ Portland Trail Blazers

National TV? Yes, NBATV.

The matchup between the Mavs and Trail Blazers on Dec. 1 will mark Wesley Matthews’ return to Portland.

Despite rehabbing from an Achilles tear he suffered last season, Dallas rewarded Matthews with a four-year, $57 million contract that jolted to $70 million when DeAndre Jordan reneged on his contract with the Mavs. Dallas wanted to reward the guard’s faith in the organization, but early returns have not been promising. Through his first five games in the new threads, Matthews is shooting 34.9 percent from the field and 37 percent from beyond the arc. His PER (9.92) is lower than his points per game (10.2), which is the lowest since the Marquette product’s rookie year.

Aside from the individual storyline, both the Mavs and Blazers are shaping up to be borderline playoff teams in the loaded Western Conference.

Dec. 2: Toronto Raptors @ Atlanta Hawks

National TV? No.

Another game with a key reunion, this will be DeMarre Carroll’s first time back to Atlanta to face off against the Hawks. Both rosters look to be underrated contenders in the Eastern Conference, where LeBron’s Cavs reign until proven otherwise.

Dec. 3: Oklahoma City Thunder @ Miami Heat

National TV? Yes, TNT.

Though matchups between the Heat and Thunder no longer feature battles between MVPs LeBron James and Kevin Durant, it’s still a compelling head-to-head with plenty of star power.

While OKC primarily relies upon its two-headed monster of KD and Russelll Westbrook, Miami has shifted to a more balanced attack to complement veterans Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Goran Dragic, Hassan Whiteside and rookie forward Justise Winslow will have to provide a spark for the Heat to earn a W over the Thunder.

Dec. 4: Cleveland Cavaliers @ New Orleans Pelicans

National TV? Yes, ESPN.

Injuries have devastated the Pelicans in the early going of 2015-16. New head coach Alvin Gentry has been forced to fight a losing battle, and it left New Orleans in an 0-6 hole to begin the year.

Climbing out of that abyss in the brutal Western Conference would be like draining a shot from the tunnel at Oracle Arena (for someone not named Stephen Curry, of course).

But even if the Pelicans are already dead in the water, the matchup against Cleveland will be intriguing. LeBron James and Anthony Davis are two of the best players in the league, so take advantage of the opportunity to watch them compete in the same game.

Dec. 5: Cleveland Cavaliers @ Miami Heat

National TV? Yes, NBATV.

Miami already played against LeBron this season on Oct. 30 (a 10-point loss for the Heat), but Dec. 5 marks the date James will once again head back to South Beach to face the team he won his two championship rings with.

In theory, this hyped matchup will generate a rowdy crowd hopeful to leave the stadium after witnessing a victory over King James. This will be a big early test for the Heat.

Dec. 6: Sacramento Kings @ Oklahoma City Thunder

National TV? No.

Rajon Rondo said that the “sky’s the limit” and “I’m excited that everybody’s doubting us,” leading up to the 2015-16 season after he signed with the Kings. His confidence was a good sign for fans in Sacramento, but the doubters (at least early on) have been proven correct.

The Kings, who started the season 1-6, stink. Part of that is due to missing DeMarcus Cousins as a result of injury, but SacTown doesn’t look like anything close to a playoff team. Will that change in a big test against OKC that pits Rondo against Westbrook?

Dec. 7: Detroit Pistons @ Charlotte Hornets

National TV? No.

This matchup doesn’t feature juggernauts in the Eastern Conference, but that doesn’t mean Detroit and Charlotte aren’t worth watching. Especially when you consider rebound-machine Andre Drummond will face off against veteran big man Al Jefferson and Kemba Walker will go toe-to-toe with Reggie Jackson, there are some interesting matchups at play.

Dec. 8: Orlando Magic @ Denver Nuggets

National TV? No.

This is another unorthodox matchup that may not look sexy on the surface, but both Orlando and Denver account for a lot of the league’s potential-packed youngsters.

Evan Fournier, Victor Oladipo, Nikola Vucevic, Tobias Harris and Aaron Gordon for Orlando; a healthy Danilo Gallinari, Will Barton and Joffrey Lauvergne for Denver. This could be a fast-paced shootout between two teams that like to push the pace, as well as an opportunity for fans to scout some young talents for fun.

Dec. 9: San Antonio Spurs @ Toronto Raptors

National TV? No.

A huge early test for an improved Raptors squad, this contest will also provide former Spur Cory Joseph with an opportunity to make an impact against his former team.

It’s never good practice to judge a team based on one game, but Toronto could raise a lot of eyebrows with a regular season win over the mighty Spurs.

Dec. 10: Los Angeles Clippers @ Chicago Bulls

National TV? Yes, TNT.

Chris Paul against Derrick Rose, Pau Gasol, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and Jimmy Butler…this affair has plenty to watch for.

Both teams have had their share of questions early on. The Clips are trying to integrate a number of new pieces brought in to provide depth, while Chicago is facing a bit of an identity crisis with Fred Hoiberg taking over for Tom Thibodeau. The Dec. 10 meeting should teach the NBA community more about each squad, for better or worse.

Dec. 11: Miami Heat @ Indiana Pacers

National TV? Yes, ESPN.

This Eastern Conference rivalry doesn’t have quite the same feel anymore now that both rosters have made and/or been forced into significant changes. Will Indy’s new small-ball philosophy favor the Pacers against the Heat? Or will Miami’s big front with Whiteside and Chris Bosh be too much for Paul George and Co.?

Dec. 12: Los Angeles Lakers @ Houston Rockets

National TV? No.

Objectively, the Lakers stink. The miles on Kobe Bryant’s legs coupled with Byron Scott’s coaching and struggles from the youngsters is not a tasty cocktail.

Nevertheless, the bad blood between Kobe and Rockets center Dwight Howard makes this game worth a look — even though it will likely end in a blowout.

Dec. 13: Utah Jazz @ Oklahoma City Thunder

National TV? No.

Utah is proving early and often that last season’s tremendous second half was not a fluke. The Jazz have posted the league’s best defensive rating through Nov. 9. They’re hanging tough in the Western Conference, but there are many tough tests to come.

One such contest will be against OKC on Dec. 13 on the road. You can also catch another December meeting between these two teams on Dec. 11, when they’ll face off in Utah.

Dec. 14: Phoenix Suns @ Dallas Mavericks

National TV? Yes, NBATV

Both the Mavs and Suns figure to be borderline playoff teams this year, so every game has to be considered a must-win (especially in the conference).

Dec. 14 will mark Tyson Chandler’s return to Big D. He was the defensive anchor who guided Dallas to a championship in 2011, but that didn’t prompt Mark Cuban and the Mavs front office to retain him via free agency this past summer. Instead, Cuban made a fruitless pursuit of DeAndre Jordan.

Cuban has since said, “(Chandler) does have the right to be salty,” following what happened in the offseason. Chandler would love nothing more than to beat his former team.

Dec. 15: Cleveland Cavaliers @ Boston Celtics

National TV? Yes, NBATV.

Although the Celtics played Cleveland tough in the first round of the playoffs last year, they wound up getting swept. Expand that to a series sweep during the 2014-15 regular season, and Celts are 0-8 against the Cavs since the start of last season.

Boston is young, but its core plays with a lot of fire and a lot of pride. Head coach Brad Stevens will likely throw the kitchen sink at Cleveland from a coaching standpoint to try and get off that ugly schneid.

Dec. 16: Memphis Grizzlies @ Chicago Bulls

National TV? Yes, ESPN.

In addition to being playoff contenders in recent years in their respective conferences, the Grizzlies and Bulls sport a matchup that pits the Gasol brothers against one another.

Both teams have faced identity crises early on, but Pau vs. Marc is still going to be fun (so long as neither are out injured when we get to Dec. 16).

Dec. 17: Oklahoma City Thunder @ Cleveland Cavaliers

National TV? Yes, TNT.

You knew this matchup was going to crop up at some point in December. Durant vs. LeBron is still one of the marquee, can’t-miss matchups in the NBA today. Love them or hate them, basketball fans need to take the opportunity to watch the greatness while they still can.

Dec. 18: Los Angeles Clippers @ San Antonio Spurs

National TV? Yes, ESPN.

For my money, the Clippers vs. Spurs series in the first round of the 2015 playoffs was far and away the most entertaining of the entire postseason.

It was a back-and-forth slugfest from start to finish. The moment it was over, many basketball fans wanted to run it back for the sheer entertainment value. Gregg Popovich may bust out his patented gamesmanship by benching his best players for the contest, but San Antonio usually remains competitive even when he does so.

Dec. 19: Los Angeles Clippers @ Houston Rockets

National TV? No.

In the Western Conference semifinals last season, the Clippers jumped out to a 3-1 series lead against the Rockets. It appeared as though Chris Paul was about to make it to a Conference Finals for the first time in his career, but “Lob City” squandered its chance by losing three straight.

A regular season win in December usually doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things, but it would be a nice morale boost for LA if Blake Griffin and Co. could dispatch their nemesis from a season ago.

Dec. 20: Milwaukee Bucks @ Phoenix Suns

National TV? No.

Heading into the 2013-14 season, it was nearly unanimous among pundits that the Suns would be mired in a pillow fight for last place in the Western Conference. Instead, Phoenix stormed to a 48-34 record and nearly made the playoffs.

The Suns have since lost key pieces, including point guard Goran Dragic, leaving the Bucks as perhaps the primary upstart team to watch. These teams are at similar junctures right now, so getting the W might ultimately come down to the coaching matchup between Jeff Hornacek and Jason Kidd (two former Suns guards).

Dec. 21: Oklahoma City Thunder @ Los Angeles Clippers

National TV? Yes, NBATV.

The last time the Thunder made it to the playoffs (2014), they beat the Clippers 4-2 in the Western Conference semifinals. Durant averaged 33.2 points per game in the series, while Westbrook averaged 27.8.

Both teams have made changes to their 12-man rosters since then, so it’s worth seeing how these two heavyweights stack up against one another in what could be a preview of a 2016 playoff showdown.

Dec. 22: Dallas Mavericks @ Toronto Raptors

National TV? Yes, NBATV.

Dec. 22 marks a pretty uneventful Tuesday of NBA action (unless you relish washing the 76ers, Lakers or Nuggets). The one standout is the Mavericks heading up north to take on the Raptors.

Both teams have a lot of offensive weapons, but Toronto’s downfall might be its lack of a big man who can viably check Dirk Nowitzki.

Dec. 23: Utah Jazz @ Golden State Warriors

National TV? No.

Utah’s team defense is no joke, but can it stand up tall against a truly elite Warriors offense?

Odds are the Jazz won’t have enough offense against Golden State’s near-equally-solid D to leave Oracle Arena with a win on the ledger. However, that doesn’t make the defense vs. offense duel any less intriguing. Who knows, perhaps the Jazz will make an early statement by upsetting the defending champs and making the NBA community take notice.

Dec. 24: No Games Scheduled

Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

If you’re obsessed with NBA action, spend some time with family and friends on Christmas Eve, as there won’t be any games to watch anyhow.

Dec. 25: Cleveland Cavaliers @ Golden State Warriors

National TV? Yes, ABC.

The 2015-16 season boasts an impressive slate of Christmas Day games. The Lakers and Clippers will battle at Staples Center in what might be Kobe Bryant’s final Christmas Day game. The Spurs will face the Rockets in a Western Conference battle, and New Orleans, Miami, Chicago and OKC will also suit up.

But when picking the game to watch this year, the answer is clear. Cleveland against Golden State will rehash last year’s NBA Finals and pit reigning MVP Steph Curry against four-time MVP LeBron James. A close game that comes down to the final seconds should be all NBA fans wish for this year.

Dec. 26: Houston Rockets @ New Orleans Pelicans

National TV? Yes, NBATV.

The Pelicans just don’t have the personnel needed to defend James Harden (true, few do). But even with that matchup being a question mark, a potential battle between “The Brow” and D12 down low adds plenty of intrigue.

At this point of the season, New Orleans will either be fighting for its playoff lives or dialing back to figure things out for next season.

Dec. 27: Portland Trail Blazers @ Sacramento Kings

National TV? No.

After losing four of their five starters during the offseason to trades and free agency, many pundits penned that Portland would tumble down the standings. They’ve held firm thus far with wins over Utah, Minnesota and Memphis.

The Kings have a long way to go before they have similar cohesion, but this should still be a good matchup with Damian Lillard, Rajon Rondo, DeMarcus Cousins and C.J. McCollum suiting up.

Dec. 28: Los Angeles Clippers @ Washington Wizards

National TV? No.

There’s really only one factor at play that should convince basketball buffs to watch this game: Chris Paul vs. John Wall.

Stephen Curry is proving with each game that he’s the best in the business at the point guard position, but Wall and CP3 are easily in the top five. In fact, the Kentucky product is making a case to be considered above Paul, as Wall sports a superior PER and ranks No. 10 in blocks per game through six games of the season.

It’s early, but when you account for Wall’s less impressive supporting cast, he shouldn’t be discounted.

Dec. 29: Atlanta Hawks @ Houston Rockets

National TV? No.

The Hawks won both meetings with the Rockets during the 2014-15 regular season, though Houston played without James Harden and Dwight Howard in the second matchup.

These teams are different in the sense that the Hawks rely on contributions from a collection of players and seamless ball movement, while the Rockets lean more on overall pace and the play of their MVP candidate. Of course, both abide by the strategy of shooting threes or getting easy looks at the basket with little in between. Those variables make this east-west duel a regular season rarity worth your time.

Dec. 30: Washington Wizards @ Toronto Raptors

National TV? Yes, NBATV.

At the culmination of the 2014-15 campaign, Toronto and Washington finished No. 4 and 5, respectively, in the Eastern Conference. When they faced off in the first round of the 2015 postseason, the Wiz stormed to a 4-0 series victory.

That sweep was highlighted by Marcin Gortat, who averaged 17.3 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and two blocks per game in the series while converting 74.4 percent of his field goals. For the Raptors, Kyle Lowry was at the forefront of the disappointment. He shot 31.6 percent from the field and 21.7 percent from deep.

Dec. 31: Golden State Warriors @ Houston Rockets

National TV? No.

Credit the Rockets for storming back from 3-1 down to beat the Clippers in the Western Conference semis a season ago, but they clearly didn’t have enough left in the tank to compete with Golden State. The Dubs headed to the Finals with a 4-1 series win, outscoring the Rockets by 8.2 points per game.

The Warriors appear to be soundly superior to every other team in the league. Nevertheless, a showdown between Curry and Harden, if nothing else, should be fiery. Harden said he deserved MVP over Curry, so he’ll need to walk the walk against a brutally tough team to prove he’s deserving this time around.

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