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Most anticipated narrative, revenge games for first half of 2021-22 NBA season

The NBA is always chalk full of drama and we’ve got plenty of big spots to highlight in the first half, including Lakers vs. Suns and Hawks vs. Knicks.

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The full 2021-22 NBA schedule officially dropped on Friday afternoon and as is the case with every new league calendar, there’s plenty of intriguing revenge game opportunities to circle.

Whether it’s one team facing the foe that knocked it out of the playoffs the year prior or a newly signed free agent playing against his former franchise for the first time, there’s always the potential for drama as the first half of the season unfolds. Here’s some matchups to keep your eye on.

Phoenix Suns vs. Los Angeles Lakers

Date: Wednesday, October 22

Narrative: Lakers avenging first-round series exit against the Suns

Right out the gate within the first week, we’ll be getting a rematch of the first-round matchup in the 2021 Western Conference playoffs that saw the Phoenix Suns “upset” the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers in six games.

A healthy LeBron James and Anthony Davis will look to make a statement in trying to take back the west from the Suns with a revamped roster that includes the additions of Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony.

Atlanta Hawks vs. Philadelphia 76ers

Date: October 30, 7:30 p.m. ET

Narrative: 76ers avenging Eastern Conference semifinal loss against the Hawks

Led by MVP runner-up Joel Embiid, the Philadelphia 76ers earned the No. 1 in the East last season and were poised for a run to the conference finals at the very least before being upended in a seven-game war with the pesky Atlanta Hawks.

Embiid played through a knee injury but the series has become known for the disappearance act of Ben Simmons at both the free throw line and the offensive end in general. Who knows if Simmons will still be a Sixer by the time this game will tip off but the remaining squad will be motivated here.

Phoenix Suns vs. Minnesota Timberwolves

Date: November 15, 8 p.m. ET

Narrative: Chris Paul vs. Patrick Beverley

This matchup is interesting for the sole reason of it being the first time that Chris Paul and Patrick Beverley will interact since Beverley shoved Paul in the back in the closing minutes of Game 6 of last year’s Western Conference finals.

Beverley publicly apologized for the push afterwards but CP3 is notoriously petty and is probably waiting for the chance to see him on the court again.

Los Angeles Clippers vs. Los Angeles Lakers

Date: Friday, Dec. 3, 10 p.m. ET

Narrative: Former Thunder teammates Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony meet

According to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, it was Westbrook who originally wanted to team up with Kawhi Leonard in Los Angeles while George was content to stay in Oklahoma City. George ultimately had a change of heart when Leonard used Westbrook’s call to lure the forward to LA. Now Westbrook is with the Lakers and will face off against his former Thunder teammate.

Anthony is also in the mix here as a reminder of a trio that never materialized in Oklahoma City. The three players will meet up in this heated rivalry, but the spotlight will be on the hometown stars who “promised” to deliver a small-market franchise a championship.

Atlanta Hawks vs. New York Knicks

Date: December 25, 12 p.m. ET

Narrative: Christmas Day rematch of first-round series

Trae Young’s rise as a star built for big-time moments in the playoffs came at the expense of the New York Knicks, whose fans he quieted in the midst of a five-game first-round triumph.

Now on Christmas Day in front of the eyes of the nation, the Knicks and the Madison Square Garden crowd will welcome back their newest villain for the first time since the postseason and will be looking to make a statement here.

Brooklyn Nets vs. Golden State Warriors

Date: January 29, 8:30 p.m. ET

Narrative: Kevin Durant returns to Golden State for first time in front of fans

Kevin Durant has technically already returned to the Bay Area already but this will be the first time he’ll play in front of Warriors fans at the Chase Center. This week, both Durant and Draymond Green hashed out the reasons for the superteam’s breakup in 2019 and one would imagine him still having something to prove to Warriors ownership.

There’s also a possibility that both of these All-Star filled squads could actually be healthy for the first time in eons, making for a compelling midseason battle.

Toronto Raptors vs. Miami Heat

Date: January 17, 7:30 p.m. ET

Narrative: Kyle Lowry’s first game vs. Toronto

Kyle Lowry signed a three-year, $85 million deal to join the Miami Heat through a sign-and-trade this offseason and this January matchup will mark the first time he’ll face his former team.

Lowry is the most accomplished player Raptors history and the team has already confirmed that it’ll retire his jersey at some point in the future. However, he’ll look to prove that he still has plenty in the tank and what better way to do it than performing well against the team that just traded you?

Milwaukee Bucks vs. Phoenix Suns

Date: February 10, 10 p.m. ET

Narrative: 2021 NBA Finals rematch

Right before the All-Star break, we’ll be treated to the first rematch of the 2021 NBA Finals between the Milwaukee Bucks and Phoenix Suns. Phoenix was in control of the series with a 2-0 lead before Giannis Antetokounmpo delivered one of the greatest individual finals performance of all time and lifted the Bucks to their first championship in 50 years.

Phoenix should be well positioned to make a deep run again and making a statement against the team that ruined its title dreams would be huge.