The NBA recently released the first half of its regular season schedule, and you can bet we are already circling which games will be barnburners.
From player reunions, rivalries and simply exciting matchups between powerhouses, the NBA has some great games. But what's the top tilt of the upcoming campaign?
10. Atlanta Hawks vs Memphis Grizzlies, Dec. 26
Two of the league’s most exhilarating young point guards going head to head? Sign us up.
What makes this Trae Young Ja Morant matchup so fascinating is that they dominate in different ways. Young is the smoother player as he utilizes his tight handle to dish aesthetically-pleasing passes while bombing away from 30 feet.
Morant, on the other hand, is a much more vicious entity. He’s constantly looking to attack the rim with reckless abandon, and while that sometimes ends in rim-shattering dunks and acrobatic finishes, it also ends poorly at times. Morant took complete control of the offense his rookie year, and hopefully these two guard each other throughout the game.
The Hawks also revamped their roster big time while the Grizzlies have favored the more home-grown approach.
These two small markets rarely have national TV games, so casual fans should savor this matchup.
9. Charlotte Hornets vs New Orleans Pelicans, Jan. 8
Fans of AAU will undoubtedly remember the famous LaMelo Ball vs Zion Williamson face-off in Las Vegas which almost shut the gym down.
These two may be on small-market teams, but their incredibly electrifying play will make this a fun one to watch.
Not to mention, the clash also features a brotherly matchup as LaMelo will square off against his older brother Lonzo Ball. Imagine how proud their father Lavar Ball will be that day. Actually, we won't have to imagine as we'll surely hear from the boisterous dad.
8. Golden State Warriors vs Milwaukee Bucks, Dec. 25
The Bucks have had a wild offseason that included a blockbuster Jrue Holiday trade, a botched Bogdan Bogdanovic deal and an elephant-sized unsigned supermax contract from Giannis Antetokounmpo.
A starting lineup with Holiday, Donte DiVincenzo, Khris Middleton, Antetokounmpo and Brook Lopez is one of the most complete in the league, and they face off against the NBA's preeminent shooting superstar in Curry.
There have been rumors floating around for years that the Warriors will pursue the Greek Freak, and that'll surely be on the Bucks’ minds.
Golden State already signed one star wing from a small market franchise, could they do it again? A win would undoubtedly help that cause.
7. Dallas Mavericks vs Phoenix Suns, Dec. 23
Remember how great this rivalry was when Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki were in their prime? Luckily, we could have a new-age rivalry brewing between two sets of stars in Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis with the Mavs and Devin Booker and DeAndre Ayton with the Suns.
While Porzingis is sadly out for the first month of the season as he recuperates from knee surgery, Dallas has plenty of firepower to stay in this game.
We also get to see Chris Paul with his new squad for the first time after being traded by the Thunder.
This is going to be a fun fight against two up and coming young Western Conference squads.
6. Los Angeles Clippers vs Denver Nuggets, Dec. 25
This one speaks for itself. The Clippers blew a 3-1 lead to the Nuggets in the bubble, then saw JaMychal Green sign with Denver in the offseason. Green is by no means a star, but he’s a dependable role player, and that’s gotta sting.
After Nikola Jokic ran wild against the Clips in the playoffs, LA brought in Serge Ibaka, who can hopefully slow down the Serbian big man more than Montrezl Harrell did.
In a recent interview, Marcus Morris claimed that the Clippers were the better team than the Nuggets, so you know Michael Malone will be using that as bulletin board (or Zoom screen sharing?) material.
Kawhi Leonard and Paul George will get a chance to start their season off with a chance for some revenge.
5. Los Angeles Lakers vs Milwaukee Bucks, Jan. 21
This is what everyone has been waiting for: the Wesley Matthews Revenge Game!
While there will continue to be rumors of Giannis Antetokounmpo leaving Milwaukee for a championship contender like the Lakers all season, this game is simply an excellent matchup.
The Bucks are a stout defensive team with the offensive firepower to keep up with the Lakers. The Jrue Holiday-Dennis Schroder battle will be fun to watch while Brook Lopez, Marc Gasol, Anthony Davis, Antetokounmpo and James fight it out in the trenches.
These teams could have the two best records in the league by the time they face off. Grab a bag of popcorn and enjoy the show.
4. Brooklyn Nets vs Boston Celtics, Dec. 25
This one is going to be good. Kyrie Irving missed the Nets’ return to Boston last season due to injury, so this will be his first time returning to Beantown after fleeing in free agency.
The atmosphere will be slightly lacking with no fans, but you better believe the Celtics remember Kyrie leaving them. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are all grown up now, but Irving's questionable leadership will probably be fresh in their minds.
While Kemba Walker is out after receiving a stem cell injection in his knee, we can still watch Marcus Smart guard Irving while Kevin Durant tries to remind the world he’s still a dominant force after tearing his Achilles.
3. Dallas Mavericks vs Lakers, Dec. 25
Do you remember how insane the Mavs and Lakers games were last season? Here's a reminder:
LeBron and Luka Doncic are already one of the NBA’s best matchups. Bron has gushed about how much he loves Luka’s game countless times, and both players are exquisite passers who act as point forwards for their respective squads.
Watching Doncic, who is 14 years younger than LeBron, is always a treat as they bring out the best in each other.
James wants to prove he’s still the best player in the game, while Doncic's hunger to prove he deserves to be right there with him is palpable in every possession.
2. Golden State Warriors vs Brooklyn Nets, Dec. 22
There are so many storylines in this clash. Most importantly, we have three of the league’s best and most exciting players back on the hardwood after serious injuries in Stephen Curry, Durant and Irving.
KD is facing off against his old teammates, after winning two championships together. Odds are that Draymond Green and KD will get into at least one verbal spat during the game.
Then there’s a battle of two fantastic point guards who have faced off in multiple Finals before. Kyrie drained one of the most-clutch shots in NBA history right in Curry’s face, but the Chef reigns supreme with three rings.
Sprinkle in the fact that this will be highly touted prospect James Wiseman’s first NBA game. But he's not alone, it'll also be Steve Nash's first game as the Nets' head coach.
It doesn't get much better than this to start the season.
1. Clippers vs Lakers, Dec. 22
The league’s marquee rivalry is starting off the season just like they did last year.
The Clippers and Lakers combine an actual on-court rivalry with two fan bases who absolutely despise each other.
Here are some juicy subplots in this game: the Clippers will have to watch the Lakers receive their rings, which has got to motivate them to beat the Lakers. Former Clippers center Montrezl Harrell walked across the hall to join the Purple and Gold, so emotions will likely be running wild.
Kawhi Leonard and Paul George were shockingly upset last postseason, and they’re going to go at the Lakeshow with everything they've got.
The additions of Ibaka, Luke Kennard, Schroder, Gasol and Matthews will add some new blood to this already gruesome fight.
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