It’s an early winter football/basketball smorgasbord on national TV


James Harden

While the NBA swings into midseason, the postseason picture is being settled in the NFL and especially college football in games airing nationally this week.

First and foremost is the College Football Playoff Championship Game, airing live on ESPN on Monday, Jan. 7. Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit will be on the call as the winners of the Cotton (Clemson or Notre Dame) and Orange (Alabama or Oklahoma) Bowls clash at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clarita, Calif.

Of course, there is also action from the pro gridiron, as NBC and Fox carry contests in the NFL’s Wild Card round on Sunday, Jan. 6, and Fox airs a doubleheader of NFC Divisional playoffs on Saturday, Jan. 12. All teams, of course, are to be determined at this writing.

•While the weekends are consumed by football, midweek is the province of the NBA as playoff hopefuls square off in doubleheaders airing on national television.

The first comes Wednesday, Jan 9, on ESPN, as James Harden and the struggling Houston Rockets play host to Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Central Division-leading Milwaukee Bucks in these teams’ first meeting of the year. The scene then switches to Los Angeles in the nightcap of this twin bill, as LeBron James and the talented Lakers get their first 2018-19 look at Blake Griffin and the fair-to-middling Detroit Pistons.

TNT’s Thursday doubleheader on Jan. 10 starts off with a clash of Eastern Conference foes as Josh Richardson and the lackluster Miami Heat defend their home court from Kyrie Irving and the formidable Boston Celtics. This is the first game between these teams this season. Immediately following is a game between teams that figure to have a lot to say about the Western playoff picture come April, as Paul George and the Oklahoma City Thunder drop in on DeMar DeRozan and the San Antonio Spurs in the first game of a home-and-home series.

Then on Friday, Jan. 11, the hardcourt action switches back to ESPN as Tim Hardaway Jr. and the tomato cans of the East, the New York Knicks, welcome in Bojan Bogdanovic and the solid Indiana Pacers, the third time these conference rivals have clashed this year. Then in the nightcap, two Western adversaries square off as James and the Lakers invade the home court of Donovan Mitchell and the Utah Jazz. These teams last met on Nov. 23, when James’ 22 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists allowed the Lakers to seize control of an ugly game and come away with a 90-83 home victory.

George Dickie

George Dickie

George Dickie has been a features writer for Gracenote/Tribune Media Services since 1989, when “Hee-Haw” was still on the air and George “Goober” Lindsay was his first interview. His early interviews ranged from Jim Henson and Dick Van Dyke to Phil Collins and the Dixie Chicks.

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