The NBA released its schedule for the first half of the 2020-21 season on Friday afternoon. The League had previously announced the schedule for the first few days of the season, including Opening night on Dec. 22 and the five-game Christmas Day slate. Among those matchups are Kevin Durant and the Brooklyn Nets facing Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors. The Battle for L.A. with Los Angeles Lakers studs LeBron James and Anthony Davis vs. Los Angeles Clippers stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. We also get to see Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks take on Chris Paul and the Phoenix Suns early on.
Excluding some of the games already announced, we’re going to go over some of the matchups we’re most looking forward to in the first half of the season.
Miami Heat at Los Angeles Lakers, Feb. 20
The first 2020 NBA Finals rematch will take place well into the season schedule. The game will air on ABC. The Lakers knocked off the Heat in six games in the Finals, though the series wasn’t really that close. Jimmy Butler kept the Heat going with a few big triple-doubles. Injuries piled up for Miami and LeBron James and Anthony Davis were too much. If the Heat thought that was rough, now the Lakers comes back this season with Dennis Schroder and Montrezl Harrell. Yikes!
Los Angeles Lakers at Milwaukee Bucks, Jan. 21
Many believed that this would be the 2020 NBA Finals matchup until the Bucks stunk it up in the second round against the Heat. Milwaukee has since added some depth with DJ Augustin and Bobby Portis, and oh yeah, traded for PG Jrue Holiday. So the Bucks head into 2020-21 with the same championship aspirations. Giannis Antetokounmpo has until Dec. 21 to sign a max extension with the team. If that happens before this game, it could be a historic Finals matchup for the next couple of seasons.
Charlotte Hornets at New Orleans Pelicans, Jan. 8
This will undoubtedly be dubbed “The Ball Bowl” with rookie LaMelo Ball and the Hornets taking on his brother Lonzo Ball and the Pelicans. Melo was drafted No. 3 overall and is expected to be the more talented Ball brother. Lonzo has been in the League for a bit now and is considered one of the better defenders. Might we see Lonzo guarding LaMelo in this game? If we don’t, why are they even playing each other?
Brooklyn Nets at New York Knicks, Jan. 13
There usually isn’t much to this Nets-Knicks rivalry. Now there’s way too much to it. Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving both spurned the Knicks in free agency last offseason to sign in Brooklyn. Well, Irving definitely did. The Knicks got Obi Toppin in the draft and may have a more competitive team under Tom Thibodeau. This rivalry isn’t 100 percent back but this year it’s getting closer.
Boston Celtics at Philadelphia 76ers, Jan. 20
One of the better rivalries in the NBA, we’ve got Celtics vs. Sixers for the first time in 2021. The Sixers have former Celtics head coach Doc Rivers, so there’s plenty of narrative there despite Doc not coaching much of this Boston roster. The Celtics have lost Gordon Hayward and may take a step back, while the Sixers will look to move forward with more 3-point shooting and better leadership.
Brooklyn Nets at Golden State Warriors, Feb. 13
It’s an early Valentine’s Day present for the Dubs with Kevin Durant, an old fling, heading back to town. This isn’t the first game KD will play against his former team, but it’s the first time he’ll play in the Bay Area since leaving the Warriors after the 2019 NBA playoffs. Durant comes back with Kyrie Irving, whom Dubs fans know well. As long as the Warriors can hold it together until February, this should be a marquee matchup.