The first half of the NBA's 2020-21 season was announced on Friday (Dec. 5). It begins on Dec. 23 and extends till just a day before the 2021 All-Star break.
Given the number of games announced, there are plenty of mouth-watering contests on the slate. Here's a look at the top 10 games you should not miss. So, mark these down on your calendar.
*Dates as per IST
The Battle for LA
Date: Dec. 23
It was a shocking end to the Clippers' campaign last season but they are still stocked with talent and the 2020 offseason added more storylines to this in-city rivalry.
Montrezl Harrell switching locker rooms. Ty Lue, who was LeBron James' head coach when the Cleveland Cavaliers won the title in 2016, has been elevated to the head coach of the Clippers. Both franchises split the signing of the Raptors big men with Ibaka choosing the Clippers.
So, if LeBron and AD going up against PG and Kawhi headlining the battle for Los Angeles isn't enough, then we've got more to make this three-game season-series a cracker!
Kyrie's return to Boston
Date: Dec. 26
Kyrie Irving's lone full season (including playoffs) with the Celtics was eventful and dramatic, to say the least. The team went from one game away from the NBA Finals in 2017 without him, to getting eliminated in the Conference Semifinals 4-1 to the Milwaukee Bucks.
The year after, while with the Nets, Irving missed out on all of Brooklyn's contests at Boston but this season, he makes his return to the Garden during the festivities of Christmas and he brings along superstar Kevin Durant with him.
Will Irving ball out against his former team or will the Celtics have the last laugh?
MVP vs. MVP
Date: Jan. 22
The reigning league MVP vs. the reigning Finals MVP.
Top seed in the West vs. top seed in the East [2019-20]
While the Lakers were the runaway winners of the offseason, the Bucks were also one among the rest to re-tool and get better this offseason. They did so by acquiring Jrue Holiday. In 2019-20, this season-series was split with the home teams winning both contests. How will things turn out in the 2020-21 season?
KD & Kyrie in LA
Date: Feb. 19 vs. Lakers; Feb. 22 vs. Clippers
February isn't going to an easy month for the Nets. Seven of their 13 games in February are on the road, headlined by five games in eight days West Coast road trip which ends in Los Angeles.
The Kyrie-KD-led squad will face the defending champions on Feb. 18 and then, a few days later on Feb. 21, they will go head-to-head against the LA Clippers.
MORE: Duels we missed out on last season
Given Durant's absence from play last season, we've missed out on his possible matchups with players of the caliber of LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard. The first half of the schedule allows to watch both of these within the span of a couple of days.
KD's return to the bay
Date: Feb. 14
The Nets' five-game road trip begins in San Francisco, in what would be Kevin Durant's first visit back to the Bay since leaving the Warriors to sign with the Nets as a free agent in the 2019 offseason. Durant's last official game was as a Warrior - Game 5 of the 2019 Finals.
This game would have been far more spicier with the presence of fans at the Chase Center but even in the current situation of the COVID-19 pandemic, this is bound to create some buzz even if it is among fans sitting at home and watching this game live.
Finals rematch in LA
Date: Feb. 21
More often than not, especially over the past few years, the league's Christmas Day schedule would include a rematch of the NBA Finals but for this one, everyone has got to wait nearly two months - such is 2020.
Nobody had an off-season as great as the Lakers but the Heat were no slouches. They re-signed key players in Goran Dragic and Bam Adebayo while adding free agents like Avery Bradley and Maurice Harkless to replace Derrick Jones Jr. and Jae Crowder.
It's culture vs. culture. Should be an exciting contest!
Wall's return to D.C.
Date: Feb. 16
After an emotional ten years in Washington D.C, John Wall was traded for another superstar point guard on his supermax contract in Russell Westbrook to the Houston Rockets.
A day after the trade was made official, Wall penned a heartfelt letter to D.C.:
"From a young rookie to an All-star, I did my best to make you proud. Through good times like that Game 6 versus Boston, through injuries & rehab, I always felt the love from you. I appreciate you and will ALWAYS have love for DC."
Wall will return to D.C., as a member of the Houston Rockets a day after Valentine's Day.
Date: Jan. 18
The young superstar duo of Donovan Mitchell, of the Utah Jazz, and Jamal Murray, of the Denver Nuggets, went head-to-head in one of the most historic and iconic one-on-one duels in NBA playoff history.
Donovan Mitchell and Jamal Murray combined to score 475 points in this series 👏- SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 2, 2020
That is the most combined points by opposing players in a series in NBA history. pic.twitter.com/nge3BoytbT
The duo will suit up against each other along with their teams, both of whom were pretty active in the 2020 offseason, twice in the first half of the regular season - the first of which is slated for Jan. 17.
Will they put on another show?
LeBron & Luka - Master vs. Student
Date: Dec. 26
In the two seasons since Luka Doncic entered the league, the head-to-head contests between LeBron James and Slovenian star have been more than entertaining. And that has rewarded NBA fans across the world with a Christmas Day showdown between the Lakers and the Mavericks.
At a similar height, both play with a similar style and flair and we can expect another blockbuster matchup when these two teams face-off.
Lillard in LA vs. Beverley & George
Date: Dec. 31
Although both teams were on the opposite sides of the West playoff bracket, a seeding game in the Orlando bubble between the Trail Blazers and the Clippers turned into a lot more.
Some missed free throws from Damian Lillard late in the game led to plenty of trash talk from the Clippers. However, Lillard and CJ McCollum brought the jokes on Twitter after the Clippers let a 3-1 lead slip against the Nuggets in the second round.
Can we expect more trash talk when these two teams meet?
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