The NBA released next season’s schedule and already five games stand out:
5. Portland Trail Blazers – Houston Rockets (Dec. 22, 2014)
The Blazers and Rockets played one of the most memorable first round series in recent history, with three overtime games, punctuated with a fading Damian Lillard three-pointer in game six to end Houston’s season. Then there was LaMarcus Aldridge thoroughly outplaying Dwight Howard, scoring a combined 89 points in the first two games of the series.
4. San Antonio Spurs – Oklahoma City Thunder (Christmas)
“If only we had Ibaka the whole series” became the Thunder’s “Remember the Alamo!” After the Thunder lost the first two games of the Western Conference Finals by a combined 52 points, Ibaka returned in game three and the Thunder split the last four games of the series with the Spurs. The two best teams in the West return with almost identical rosters, to the delight of Spurs fans and despair of Thunder fans. Hear that ticking? It’s the countdown until 2016, Oklahoma City.
3. Golden State Warriors – L.A. Clippers (Oct. 30, 2014)
How could anyone not be excited to watch two teams that share a palpable disdain for one another, while offering enough fancy dribbling, dunks, distance shooting and pick and roll permutations to keep pundits and casual fans enthralled. The two best points guards in the league — Chris Paul and Steph Curry — square off in a first round rematch that the Clippers won in seven games, despite the Donald Sterling drama.
2. Chicago Bulls – Cleveland Cavaliers (Oct. 31, 2014)
Joakim Noah has earned the title of LeBron James’ most worthy Eastern Conference foe, now that Paul Pierce is no longer physically capable of even pretending to defend him. Noah won the Defensive Player of the Year award last season and leads a revamped Bulls front line, featuring Taj Gibson and newcomer Pau Gasol, against Kevin Love and
Anderson Varejao whoever is healthy enough to play center by then. Let’s also not forget the point guard matchup of Derrick Rose and Kyrie Irving, assuming neither is wearing a suit.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers – Miami Heat (Christmas)
From the moment the Sports Illustrated editor hit “publish,” Miami-Cleveland was always going to be the NBA’s Christmas day game. Will the fans boo? Will ESPN suspend Dan Le Batard again? Will LeBron yell at Mario Chalmers out of habit? How many passive-aggressive Heat quotes will emerge in the days leading up to the game? The over/under is 4.5.
Only two-and-a-half months to go!
More on the NBA Schedule: