The NBA schedule has 1,230 games in it, and each game will mean something different for each fan. Ever since the schedule was released yesterday, though, fans have been marking up different dates on their calendars for matchups to watch. We take the guesswork out of that for you here with a one-stop, league-wide look at the most intriguing games for every team this season.
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Celtics: There’s no way else to say it: Jan. 27 against Miami. Why? Ray Allen goes back to Boston and gets to guard his replacement, Jason Terry, who will be pressing not to let Allen go off on his first return visit.
Knicks: Nov. 2 vs. Miami. Why? Though games against Houston and Denver will pit the Jeremy Lin and Carmelo storylines against the Knicks, a matchup against the East’s best team will matter more for the team’s psyche in the long run. The early returns on Jason Kidd and Raymond Felton will be the undercard to this game — and who doesn’t want to watch LeBron in MSG?
76ers: Dec. 7 vs. Boston. Why? Five weeks into the season should be enough time to see if this team will play like last year, when it never had one player take the lead, or if it has found that elusive, go-to guy. The second home game of the month against a playoff team should be a nice showcase to do that.
Raptors: Dec. 16 vs. Houston. Why? Lin-sanity caught its second wave last year when he hit the buzzer-beating, winning three in Toronto. Houston’s return gives the stage back to Lin for an encore. What you should really watch this game for, however, is a chance to see one of the best defensive players, Omer Asik, face Toronto’s ox of a rookie forward Jonas Valanciunas.
Nets: Nov. 1 vs. New York. Why? The first home game since 1957 in Brooklyn opens against the New York brethren. Hipsters vs. Wall Street. Deron vs. Melo. Thank you, NBA schedule-maker, for this.
Bulls: Dec. 1 vs. Philadelphia. Why? It’s not much consolation, but the Bulls can get a shot of going after the 76ers for the 8 over 1 playoff upset last year. Without knowing what game Derrick Rose will return from injury for, this game is one the Bulls can aim at.
Cavaliers: Dec. 11 vs. the Lakers. Why? Mike Brown goes back to the city that made and then ended his first head-coaching stop, but this is about watching Kyrie Irving face Kobe. In their first matchup since that infamous Team USA highlight clip on Day One in training camp, does this turn into the one-on-one game they jawed at each other about?
Bucks: Nov. 3 vs. Cleveland. Why? Other than Bucks-Warriors this game is the most interesting early game because Tyler Zeller faces Bucks rookie and former North Carolina teammate John Henson at power forward.
Pistons: Dec. 3 vs. Cleveland. Why? Last season, the rookie point guard matchup between Brandon Knight and the Cavs’ Kyrie Irving was one of the only reasons to watch either team. It will still be one of the most intriguing matchups this year for Detroit.
Pacers: Jan. 8 vs. Miami. Why? Last year’s second-round playoff series was one of the unexpected gems of the entire postseason and created an unlikely rivalry (Lance Stephenson vs. Juwan Howard). This one, though, will be about Roy Hibbert and if he can overpower Chris Bosh.
Heat: Christmas vs. Oklahoma City. Why? It’s an NBA Finals rematch with all the trimmings. A nationwide audience glued to the TV and a showdown of Kevin Durant and LeBron James.
Magic: The game before the trade deadline. Why? Dwight Howard‘s saga now seems likely to stretch until the last moment before he can’t be dealt anymore. All the games to that point will have drama by themselves because of his discontent, but could be a final Magic game for him?
Hawks: Jan 14 vs. Chicago. Why? While I could list Orlando vs. Atlanta here as a Dwight Howard preview, it’s more intriguing in the short term to look at Jeff Teague take on his brother, Marquis Teague, who could see decent playing time with Chicago’s chaotic backcourt.
Wizards: Dec. 26 vs. Cleveland. Why: These teams meet on opening night, but I want to see how Bradley Beal and John Wall play together another six weeks together, and the matchup against one or both on Cleveland’s top-four rookie Dion Waiters completes the intrigue.
Bobcats: Nov. 9 at New Orleans. Why? Anthony Davis gets to face college teammate Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Plus, it’s early in the schedule, so there’s reason for Bobcats fans to still watch.
Thunder: Feb. 2 at Cleveland. Why? OKC was one of the league’s best teams on the road last year, but this game concludes a monster stretch for any team not built by USA Basketball. The Cavaliers game is the 12th road game in a 15-game stretch that dates back to Jan. 6 in Toronto. Of note will be how rookie Perry Jones III and Summer League stud Reggie Jackson fare during this stretch, when their minutes should go up as the starters’ fatigue does, too.
Nuggets: March 13 vs. the Knicks. Why? This game has been circled many places already, but Carmelo Anthony‘s first game back in Denver will be an event not to miss. If it once seemed like Denver fans would be out for blood, it now seems more likely they’re pretty happy with their side of the deal after making the playoffs the last two years without him. Still, don’t doubt the cathartic effect it could have in the Mile High.
Trail Blazers: Nov. 23 vs. Minnesota. Why? Brandon Roy returns to the city that adored him. Look for tears to flow like craft beer in the Rose City.
Timberwolves: Feb. 1 vs. Lakers. Why? If you like rebounding, you’ll want to watch Andrew Bynum go against Kevin Love. Both guys could get 20 boards that night. Also, if Andrei Kirilenko and Metta World Peace get to guard each other, that’s enough compressed weirdness that something interesting could happen.
Jazz: Feb. 12 vs. Oklahoma City. Why? The Jazz have a frontline worth watching with Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson, Derrick Favors and now a long three in Marvin Williams. It’s a chance to measure up near the league’s halfway mark against likely the division leader.
Kings: April 17 vs. Clippers. Why? Is the final game of the season also the last home game for the Kings ever in Sacramento? On the basketball side, it gives another matchup between DeMarcus Cousins and Blake Griffin, whose minor tiff livened up the series last year.
Lakers: April 7 at Clippers. Why? Most any game the Lakers play against the big teams is one to watch, but the cross-town blood feuds with LAC have been so memorable in the last year that it’s a de facto top game.
Clippers: Nov. 14 vs. Miami. Why? It’s one of the Clips’ once-unheard of 30 nationally televised games and an early chance to see both how healthy Griffin is and Chris Paul face Dwyane Wade.
Suns: Jan. 30 vs. Lakers. Why? Steve Nash returns to Phoenix. What else do you want to know? (Well, it’s also one of three back-to-backs that month for L.A.)
Warriors: March 2 at Philadelphia. Why? The trip the Philly marks the end of a stretch where 14 of the W’s 19 games are on the road. While this Warriors team could find itself well out of playoff contention before the Jan. 25 beginning of the stretch, the end mark will either confirm or upset what we thought we knew about this team.
Spurs: Feb. 24 at Phoenix. Why? This game marks the end of the team’s annual Rodeo Road Trip, which will be a litmus test for this team’s viability for a stretch run. Gregg Popovich traditionally uses the RRT to set his team’s lineup for the rest of the season, and this game will mark the end of the nine-game road trip.
Rockets: Nov. 18 at the Lakers. Why: Kobe Bryant isn’t deluded to consider Jeremy Lin a true rival, and yet his competitive streak will compel him to atone for Lin’s 38-point night last year in New York that blew Lin’s stock up. This time, Kobe gets Lin on his home turf.
Mavericks: March 20 vs. Brooklyn. Why? The team whose offer Deron Williams passed on (Dallas) gets its first home game against the winner of the Williams sweepstakes. Don’t forget it’s just a short drive from Williams’ hometown, too.
Grizzlies: Oct. 31 at L.A. Clippers. Why? The rematch of last year’s back-and-forth playoff series is also a matchup between Chris Paul and Mike Conley, who’s proven his doubters wrong in the last two years about the worth of his second contract.
Hornets: Nov. 26 at L.A. Clippers. Why? The first meeting between No. 1 pick Anthony Davis and Blake Griffin has a two-prong storyline: 1) Davis got an Olympic spot because of Griffin’s knee injury, and 2) if Griffin’s healthy, how many times will he try to dunk on his fellow top pick?
What are you excited for?
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