Finals rematch among must-see games

Finals rematch among must-see games

NBA 2022-23 season schedule: Finals rematch among must-see games originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Time for NBA fans to clear their schedules.

An offseason of trade speculation, player movement and trash talk has generated some intriguing matchups around the league. With the NBA’s full regular-season schedule having been released on Wednesday, here are 10 games that fans won’t want to miss.

New Orleans Pelicans at Brooklyn Nets – Oct. 19

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The offseason drama in Brooklyn has left many unanswered questions about what the Nets will look like on opening night. Will Kevin Durant be in a Nets uniform, playing for another team or retired? Will Kyrie Irving still be with the Nets? Will Ben Simmons be the face of the franchise in his Nets debut? This game will mark the returns of Zion Williamson (more on him later) and Simmons, who has not played since June 2021 when his Philadelphia 76ers lost to the Atlanta Hawks in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. Speaking of which…

Brooklyn Nets at Philadelphia 76ers – Nov. 22

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After last season’s blockbuster trade between the two teams, Simmons sitting on the Nets’ bench in street clothes during his return to Philadelphia was must-see TV. Imagine what it will be like when he has the ball in his hands or steps to the free-throw line. Expect Doc Rivers to utilize a vengeful Hack-a-Simmons strategy.

Dallas Mavericks at Phoenix Suns – Oct. 19

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When these two teams last met, it ended with a 33-point blowout in Game 7 of the Western Conference Semifinals. “A lot of people said it would be a blowout,” Mavs coach Jason Kidd said after the game. “They were right.” It just wasn’t the blowout people were expecting. It was Luka Doncic and the fourth-seeded Mavs who dominated a top-seeded Suns team that won a league-best 64 games and was seeking a repeat trip to the NBA Finals.

Los Angeles Clippers at Los Angeles Lakers – Oct. 20

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When the first round of the NBA playoffs began last season, it was without a representative from Los Angeles. That will change this season with the anticipated healthy returns of LeBron James (56 games played last season), Anthony Davis (40 games played), Paul George (31 games played) and Kawhi Leonard (0 games played).

Memphis Grizzlies at New Orleans Pelicans – Nov. 15

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Zion Williamson has not played in an NBA game since May 4, 2021. During his absence, Ja Morant has surpassed him as the best player from the 2019 NBA Draft. After Williamson’s All-Star sophomore season, in which he averaged 27.0 points, 7.2 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game, he missed the entire 2021-2022 season with a foot injury. The Pelicans made the playoffs without their 22-year-old star, who signed a five-year maximum contract extension in the offseason. He now has to prove he can stay on the court and be the generational type of player that Morant has become.

Minnesota Timberwolves at Utah Jazz – Dec. 9

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To this point, the biggest blockbuster trade of the offseason was between these two teams, with Rudy Gobert being dealt to Minnesota in a surprising move that puts him alongside Karl-Anthony Towns in the Wolves’ frontcourt. Following nine seasons with the Jazz, the last three of which he was an All-Star, Gobert will face his former team in Utah for the first time. Will Donovan Mitchell still be on the jazz at that time?

Memphis Grizzlies at Golden State Warriors – Dec. 25

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The chirping between the dynastic warriors and upstart grizzlies continued after their heated second-round series. Klay Thompson, during his presser after the Warriors won the championship, called Jaren Jackson Jr. a “bum” for his “Strength in numbers” tweet in March after Memphis blew out the Warriors.

“There was this one player on the Grizzlies who tweeted ‘Strength in numbers’ after they beat us in the regular season. And it pissed me off so much,” Thompson said. “I can’t wait to retweet that thing. freaking boom I had to watch that. I was like, ‘This freaking clown. OK, OK, OK.’ Sorry, that memory just popped up.”

Ja Morant fired back with a quote tweet regarding how Thompson’s rant showed the Grizzlies are living rent-free in the minds of the Warriors.

Draymond Green got involved, saying the only real estate on the Warriors’ minds was in Boston, where they were playing the Celtics in the NBA Finals.

Morant and Green then had an exchange about the Warriors and Grizzlies potentially meeting on Christmas Day…

And they got what they wanted for Christmas…

Boston Celtics at Golden State Warriors – Dec. 10

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Not quite as compelling as Warriors-Grizzlies, but it’s an obligatory NBA Finals rematch inclusion.

Denver Nuggets at Philadelphia 76ers – Jan 28

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The MVP goes head-to-head with the MVP runner-up in a battle of the bigs. Nikola Jokic topped Joel Embiid to win his second-straight MVP award last season after averaging 27.1 points, 13.8 rebounds and 7.9 assists. Jokic, who led a Nuggets team without Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. to 48 wins, became the 13th NBA player to win back-to-back MVP awards. He received 65 first-place votes and 875 points to edge Embiid, who finished second with 26 first-place votes and 706 points. Embiid averaged 30.6 points per game to become the first center to lead the league in scoring since Shaquille O’Neal in 1999-2000.

Milwaukee Bucks at Chicago Bulls – Dec. 28

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Giannis Antetokounmpo’s current team against his future team??? The NBA champion and two-time MVP recently spoke highly of the Bulls organization and left open the possibility of one day playing for the team.

“I think anybody you ask that question that plays basketball, if he said no, he would be a liar,” Antetokounmpo said. “It’s (the Bulls) a team that won multiple championships. It’s a team that one of the greatest players — if not the greatest player — to ever play this game played for. So it’s a no-brainer. Everybody would love to play for Chicago.”

“Down the line, you never know. You never know how life brings it. Maybe I’ll play for Chicago. But right now I’m committed to Milwaukee.”

BONUS: Los Angeles Lakers vs. an opponent later this season

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LeBron James is on pace to become the NBA’s all-time leading scorer this season. He enters his 20th season with 37,062 points, which is 1,325 points behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who tops the list with 38,387. James, at 37 years old last season, scored 30.3 points over 56 games, the second-highest average of his career. If he regresses slightly to the mean next season – and stays healthy, of course – it should take him around 50 games played to break the record. We’ll add in 10 potential games missed through that point of the season for load management and/or day-to-day injury. The Lakers surely will want the record to be broken on their home court with Abdul-Jabbar sitting courtside. So, our projected date for LeBron to score that historic bucket will be on Feb. 23 against the Golden State Warriors.

Honorable Mention: Orlando Magic at Oklahoma City Thunder, Nov. 1 (battle of the top-two picks, Paolo Banchero and Chet Holmgren); Atlanta Hawks at San Antonio Spurs, March 19 (the return of Dejounte Murray); Los Angeles Lakers at Minnesota Timberwolves, Oct. 28 (Russell Westbrook trash talk)