The Top 20 Games To Watch During the 2013-14 NBA Regular Season

Tuesday night’s NBA TV show for the unveiling of the 2013-14 regular season schedule was fun for about two minutes. Then everyone went online to find the actual, you know, schedule. We did too in order to bring you the 20 best games to circle on your calendar this coming season. was a bit a slow, but they finally posted the full schedule. More importantly for fans without League Pass (you should really get League Pass), was the national television schedule for games aired on ESPN, ABC, TNT and NBA TV. Rather than sift through 1,230 games scheduled next season, we’re bringing you the top 20.

Something to point out before we get started on our own countdown, is this info by way of Ethan J. Skolnick of the Palm Beach Post:


There are always going to be weird blips like this one with a Lakers team that could be awful if Pau Gasol, Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant play their age, or who could be really exciting and make Dwight’s exit a blessing in disguise as they woo potential 2014 free agents with their play.

Regardless, the Lakers are getting 25 nationally televised games this season. But schedule foibles happen every year, so tweeting your angry missives about the overrated Lakers isn’t going to get you anywhere. It’s best to just relax and enjoy the games like the rest of us while hoping Kobe tries to average 40 this season to account for the Achilles tear.

Without further ado, here are the best 20 games to watch during the 2013-14 season.

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20. Heat at Cavaliers 11/27/13 (7:30 pm E.T. ESPN)

Within the first month of the season, we’ll have LeBron’s first game in Cleveland since winning his second championship. Perhaps the Cavs are clearing cap space next summer to make a run at…Chris Bosh, who also has an early termination option next summer. More likely, they’re trying to entice LeBron James back to his roots. We wonder if someone will rock a cheap, homemade t-shirt with a black sharpie message, “we want LeBron 2014” like last season.

19. Pistons at Bucks 12/4/13 (8:00 pm E.T. League Pass)

Brandon Jennings‘ first trip back to the city and the team that was so happy to ship him out of a town for a point guard, Brandon Knight, that’s not really a point guard. This will only be a little over a month into the season, but it might go a long way towards instilling some confidence in a Pistons team that has lofty goals like the playoffs and possibly even home-court advantage. If they can’t lay the smack down on Jennings’ old crew, perhaps Joe Dumars should look to pull the trigger before the February trade deadline. Bonus points for the thought of an immovable object, Larry Sanders, meets an unstoppable force in the air, Andre Drummond.

18. Pistons at Hawks 11/20/13 (7:30 pm E.T. League Pass)

Josh Smith heads back to Phillips Arena, but he’ll be in an opponents uniform for the first time in his nine-year career. The fan reaction in Atlanta could be any number of things with Smith often the only reason to go to games—it certainly wasn’t Joe Johnson—while also jacking up an off-balance 20-footers with 10 seconds remaining on the shot clock. Smith’s Dr. Jekyl Mr. Hyde routine might continue in Detroit, or he’ll help improve an already impressive pairing of Greg Monroe and Drummond. This game comes within the first month of the season, and Atlanta should have an easier time adopting Paul Millsap into Smith’s role than Detroit will have incorporating heavy usage players like Monroe, Smith and Jennings into theirs, so look for an Atlanta win. With both Detroit and Atlanta entertaining a very real chance for a mid-conference playoff seeding, this game might have more end-of-season effects than any other game in the season’s first month.

17. Clippers at Celtics 12/11/13 (7:30 pm E.T. League Pass)

Doc Rivers returns to Boston for the first time as the Clippers’ new head coach. He’ll be going against former Butler coach, and a guy that sometimes looks like he doesn’t have to shave yet, Brad Stevens. But this game has a little edge to it. Like Smith’s return to Atlanta, it’ll be interesting to watch how the fans to react during Rivers’ introduction. He led their Celtics to a title in 2008, and within a quarter of another one in 2010 while making the Celtics relevant again. By this time, Rajon Rondo will most likely have returned from his torn ACL, and will attempt to make Doc’s homecoming less pleasant while simultaneously sticking it to point God, Chris Paul. This one is gonna be fun, a couple weeks before an amazing slate of games on Christmas.

16. Heat at Bulls 3/9.14 (1:00 pm E.T. ABC)

While it might not have the sex appeal of opening night’s match-up, this is Miami traveling to the scene of where they lost the second longest winning streak in NBA history last season. It’ll be a nationally televised game on ABC during a lazy Sunday afternoon after the NFL season has ended and the Bulls and Heat have already played three games against one another. This could decide who gets the top seed in the Eastern Conference. Derrick Rose will be back in uniform, and he might be putting the finishing touches on a remarkable comeback. Or this game will show everyone that Miami is poised for a three-peat with one of their primary competitors no longer able to hang with the champs. Don’t count on Tom Thibodeau‘s team to slack, though.

15. Pacers at Heat 4/11/14 (7:30 pm E.T. NBA TV)

Speaking of Eastern Conference battles that could have playoff seeding implications. The Pacers could get home-court advantage with a win this late in the regular season, or they may have already locked it up. They will be in American Airlines Arena, the site of their game 7 loss in the Eastern Conference Finals last season, and we’ll have a good idea how they’re doing heading into the playoffs. Will the significant upgrades in the Pacers’ bench help them more in the regular season when rotations aren’t as tight and having an overall roster is necessary? Could Indiana challenge Chicago, Brooklyn and Miami for the top seed out East? This game coule be the ultimate decider of who gets home court throughout the East. Or one of these teams will have already fallen out contention. Still, it’s worth marking the date just in case.

MLK Jr. Day

14. Nets at Knicks 1/20/13 (2:30 pm E.T. ESPN)

The new-look Nets travel across the east river for the first time during the MLK Jr. Monday, and we’ll get to see the battle of the boroughs in all its glory at Madison Square Garden. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett return to the site of last season’s first round playoff loss—the last time they were teamed with Rivers and the Celtics. But here, before the all-star game, the Nets will find out how they can do on the Manhattan-side since they play in Brooklyn early in December. J.R. Smith will be back, and we’ll be in the third month of the Andrea Bargnani experiment along that creaky back-line for the Knicks. Carmelo Anthony might have something special in mind here, too, but with the NBA’s trade deadline around the bend, if either team is struggling, some players will be attempting to thwart a possible move if their supposed title-contending team aren’t getting it done with them in the lineup.

13. Pelicans at Grizzlies 1/20/13 (5:00 pm E.T. NBA TV)

Memphis reached the Western Conference Finals last season and now have just 6 games total next season on ESPN, ABC or TNT. The Lakers—who didn’t even win a single playoff game last season and lost Dwight Howard—have 25. Sometimes the world just isn’t fair, as we mentioned earlier. But this NBA TV battle between a Grizzlies team that might have a little more room to operate with the addition of Mike Miller, and a Pelicans team that also spent a lot of money to upgrade their back-court after acquiring Jrue Holiday in a trade and signing Tyreke Evans to a new $44 million contract. Despite all the improvement on the wings for both teams, this game will be won on the block, and we’ll see if Anthony Davis is sturdy enough in his second season to bang with Zach Randolph in the post.

12. Pacers at Warriors 1/20/13 (10:00 pm E.T. TNT)

The late-night MLK Jr. game will feature Indiana on their west coast road swing against their stylistic opposites in Golden State. Will Andrew Bogut still be healthy at this point? If not, the Warriors, and their off-season acquisition of Andre Iguodala, won’t have enough to match-up against the now-deep Pacers front line. Will Roy Hibbert start slow again next season like he did in 2012-13? Will this be the nationally televised game where he breaks out with a double-double performance and a dominating night knocking back shots at the rim? Will Stephen Curry be dropping beautiful rainbows at Oracle Arena next season like his NBA-record 272 3-pointers last season? Man, this battle of methodology already has us excited, we just hope the rest of you are up for the West Coast late game.


11. Magic at Pacers 10/29.13 (7:00 pm E.T. NBA TV)

Would you look at this. The Pacers and the woeful Magic actually open the 2013-14 season by tipping off an hour before the nationally televised games that everyone’s been hyping they were the first games revealed this off-season. But with the Pacers cementing their place as the top challengers to the Heat in the East this season, it makes sense the NBA powers that be would put the newly improved Pacers against an Orlando Magic team that will be sporting an exciting new point guard, Victor Oladipo, and a roster that Rob Hennigan is probably hoping starts off with a loss.

10. Clippers at Lakers 10/29/13 (10:30 pm E.T. TNT)

Kobe might not be back, unless he continues to “shatter” the recovery period for a torn Achilles due to a super secret elixir that also doubles as the Fountain of Youth & the Holy Grail. The Clippers still don’t have a defensive big man to help DeAndre Jordan, so Pau could go off in this game, especially if he and Nash stay healthy through training camp and the preseason. But this will be our first West Coast matchup of the 2013-14 season on opening night, so it’s a big one.

9. Bulls at Heat 10/29.13 (8:00 pm E.T. TNT)

This is the one that kicks the 2013-14 season into high gear as the ostensible “Opening Night” game of the 2013-14 season. Many apologies to the Pacers and Magic, but we’re all wondering how Derrick Rose will look at the America Airlines Arena in Miami. Will he get his vengeance early? Will LeBron James lay the smack down on opening night to remind the Bulls and the rest of the league at large that the Heat are still the champs, no matter who is trying to take their crown. This one is justifiably giving us a tingling sensation on the back of our necks for the Rose-‘Bron battle, alone. Watch the Throne!

8. Nets at Celtics 1/26/14 (6:30 pm E.T. ESPN)

This tier of games is about rebuttals, retributions, and going home. First, the new-look Nets travel to Boston for the first time as Celtics fans have to sit helplessly and watch The Truth carve up their cobbled together roster as the former Celtic-for-life exerts a little revenge for how he left. Paul Pierce will definitely cry while the TD Garden comes alive to pay homage to their favorite son. Kevin Garnett will be ramming his head into the basket stanchion on the opposite side of the court, and you just know both Garnett and Pierce will want to show Danny Ainge what he’s missing now that they’re in Brooklyn. In case you forgot, Rondo LOVES nationally televised games, and we’re predicting a crazy triple-double to go with 5 steals as he comes close to stealing the game from his former teammates. Then they’ll all hug and it’ll get a little dusty. This is gonna be a bittersweet game to watch for Celtics and non-Celtics fans alike. We can’t wait.

7. Lakers at Rockets 11/7/13 (9:30 pm E.T. TNT)

Everyone’s saying Kobe Bryant will be back for this one, but it’s only a week into the 2013-14 season, and if he’s rushing back, it could spell doom for the visiting Lakers. Dwight will want to show his new supporters in Houston just what they got by winning the D-12 free agency sweepstakes. Pau Gasol will want to remind Dwight Howard he’s a two-time NBA champion and Dwight ain’t. Look for a lot of interior banging as Dwight tries to overpower Pau and the elder Gasol brother tries and draw Dwight out of the paint to stroke his pretty mid-range jumper while opening the rim up for Steve Nash. But we’re already terrified at how badly James Harden and a host of shooters might destroy this aging Lakers defense. Either way, this is a great game just a week after the opening of the season.

6. Rockets at Lakers 2/19/14 (10:30 pm E.T. ESPN)

Now we get to see how the Staples Center crowd reacts to Dwight’s return. The billboards are gone, the wooing has ended; Kobe has unfollowed Dwight on Twitter. Kobe will also be all the way back from the Achilles injury at this point, right near the halfway-point of the season, and the all-star game. While the Staples crowd gets maligned for being fair-weather fans who show up late and leave early, you can be sure they’ll have a special antipathy towards Howard. Whether their vitriol lasts much past the visiting introductions depends on how Howard responds to coming back after his abortive year in Laker-land. One thing you can be sure about here, though, win or lose, Shaq will have something to say about Howard, and it’ll probably feature a couple curse words.


Maybe you’ll only catch part of the Christmas Day quintuple-header the NBA has scheduled for one the most exciting early season day of the year. Christmas is a time for presents, but the biggest gift is the slate of games ESPN and ABC will be showing during nearly 15 hours-straight of basketball.

5. Bulls at Brooklyn 12/25/13 12:00 pm E.T. ESPN

Things will kick off with this rematch of last season’s 7-game opening round series between the depleted Bulls team missing D-Rose and a loafing Nets team. But this season, KG and Pierce won’t let the Nets embarrass themselves on their home floor during Christmas. Neither former-Celtics great wants to miss Christmas with their families just to be shown up by the upstart Bulls. Deron Williams will have his hands full with the completely healed Rose, who has had a couple months of action to get up-to-speed and back to his 2011 MVP form. Or perhaps the off-season will heal Williams’ ankles and he’s the one revealing his old Utah quickness. But this game could come down to Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer going against Brook Lopez and KG inside.

It’ll be a snail’s pace start to the holiday, but since it’s the first match-up of the day, forgive the hard-nosed defense and all the walking the ball up. This will be basketball as a halfcourt clinic in conserving your wind, or basketball as a tired refrain of year’s past. Either way, it’s the perfect hors d’oeuvre on Christmas, wetting your palate for the main games to come.

4. Thunder at Knicks 12/25/13 2:30 pm E.T. ABC

The first game on ABC, the Thunder will be at full capacity with Russell Westbrook fully healed from last season’s torn meniscus injury during the playoffs. Carmelo Anthony and friends in New York will want to win at home on Christmas, but the urgency for OKC will be higher. Look for Kevin Durant and ‘Melo to shoot light’s out, but Durant will be more efficient. Russ will play the spoiler since there’s no one on New York—sorry Metta World Peace—that can do anything if he’s regained his explosiveness by this point. J.R. Smith will be back too, ready to try and make good after signing the largest contract of his career this past off-season. Whether that means trying to match Durant or Westbrook 3-pointer for 3-pointer or reckless drive for reckless drive, largely depends on coach Mike Woodson‘s substitution patterns and instructions to Smith. At this point, we’ll have a general understanding how Woodson will try and sub in Andrea Bargnani and Amare’e Stoudemire. Even the weak Thunder reserves might be able to light up a back-line of STAT and Bargnani, but Woodson would be smart to stagger their time on the court.

3. Rockets at Spurs 12/25/13 8:00 pm E.T. ESPN

This will be a good chance to see how the new-look Rockets match up against the best in the West. While the Spurs might not be the biggest attraction for national television audiences (which is a huge shame), they are a good measuring stick for the Rockets’ title chances in the next calendar year. San Antonio brought everyone back after re-signing both Manu Ginobili and Tiago Splitter this off-season. They only came one Ray Allen 3-pointer away from another title for the Gregg PopovichTim Duncan dynasty, so it makes sense they’d try again with this same group. While TD might only play 28 minutes—if that—on Christmas, he’ll look for any psychological edge he can get against Dwight, knowing that they may face this Rockets team in the playoffs. No one will talk about Tony Parker before this game, but then Parker will explode for 28 points and 8 assists on only 16 shots. Jeremy Lin might not be as good as his own teammate, Patrick Beverley, and he’ll have his hands full with Parker. James Harden will have to go against the arms of Kawhi Leonard who might be in the midst of his first all-star season as the replacement for Manu in the big three Spurs dynamic. Man, this game is going to be great, and we’re only at the halfway point on the day.

2. Clippers at Warriors 12/25/13 10:30 E.T. ESPN

Once you’ve watched close to 10 hours of professional basketball while you’re supposed to be hanging with your family, it’ll take something special for you to stay up late on Christmas night. Thankfully, that’s exactly what this game will turn into. The Clippers added even more outside shooting this off-season with Jared Dudley and J.J. Redick joining Jamal Crawford, Matt Barnes and Chris Paul in LA. They figure to lead the league in scoring this upcoming season with all that firepower around a point who doesn’t mind sharing the ball. But the Warriors also improved by sending some awful contracts to Utah in order to sign Iggy, who should have been a part of this exciting Warriors team anyway. Now the Warriors can go small with Steph-Klay Thompson-Iggy-Harrison Barnes and David Lee/Bogut and shoot the Clippers off the Oracle Arena court. Two offenses, very little defense—unless Bogut suddenly drink’s Kobe’s elixir of life—and enough offensive firepower to have even the most crotchety old basketball fans whooping and hollering in the early morning hours of December 26. This could have been the number 1 game of the season, if it weren’t for the marquee match-up on the NBA’s biggest day in the season’s first half.

1. Heat at Lakers 12/25/13 5:00 pm E.T. ABC

Yes, it’s unfair that the Lakers are on TV so much this season when they could be a lottery team if Pau and Nash go down. But Kobe might be trying to average 40 points a game as he chases Michael Jordan for third on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. LeBron James could be in the middle of his third consecutive MVP campaign. It’s somewhat crazy to think about how James keeps improving even after bringing two championships to Miami, but he showed during the 2012-13 season he wasn’t going to take a year off despite playing so many games over the last threes seasons and Olympics.

LeBron James turns just 29 five days after this Christmas Day game. That’s the age where most NBA players are at their absolute apogee in terms of skill-level, freshness, maturity and overall insight into the game. If you look at the last couple of years and see LeBron overcoming the various peccadillos in his game, you can understand why the possibility of him reaching even greater heights is positively stunning. LeBron isn’t thinking about his early termination option in the summer of 2014, and neither are Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. They’ll be primed and ready tp take on an even older Lakers team this Christmas. But we’re pretty sure Kobe’s got something special in mind for this day.

Which games are you most looking forward to during this upcoming 2013-14 season?

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