The NBA regular season schedule is out, and it is no surprise that the Golden State Warriors have the most nationally televised games out of any team in the league. After examining the 43 games that will be available to a nationwide audience, there are five that seem the most compelling. Here are the five games to circle on your calendar for the upcoming campaign.
October 17 vs. the Houston Rockets
The Warriors face the Rockets in their home opener and a celebration party in honor of another championship. Fans in the Bay Area have stuck by this team through unimaginable lows, and this stretch of success is admittedly surreal. There was a time not too long ago when The Big 4 did not refer to Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, and Draymond Green, but guys like Antawn Jamison, Larry Hughes, Jason Richardson, and Danny Fortson.
Remembering the struggle makes success so much sweeter. The only thing that can spoil the festivities is a new-look Rockets team. Chris Paul was acquired via trade and will pair with James Harden to create one of the most dynamic backcourts in the NBA. Those two will come to Oakland looking to send a message to the rest of the league that Houston can contend for a championship this season.
December 25 vs. the Cleveland Cavaliers
A Christmas Day showdown between the only two franchises who have ever met in three consecutive NBA Finals defines what it means to be a must-watch NBA game. Basketball is becoming as synonymous with Christmas as football is with Thanksgiving. There are a couple of reasons why Christmas Day NBA offers a better fan experience. First of all, more basketball games are on Christmas than football games on Thanksgiving.
If a couple of matches turn out to be clunkers, there are more opportunities for the bad taste to be washed away with a more compelling clash later that day. Second, the league doesn't schedule the same teams every year out of tradition as the NFL does. There's no NBA equivalent of the Detroit Lions or Dallas Cowboys always having to play on the day every season no matter what. The NBA is flexible enough to organize marquee matchups.
The Cavs/Warriors game last Christmas when Kyrie Irving duplicated his same late-game heroics from game 7 of the previous Finals punctuated a fantastic battle. There’s no reason to expect anything different this time around (unless of course Irving is ultimately traded).
January 27 vs. the Boston Celtics
For the last couple seasons, the Boston Celtics have had regular season success against the Dubs. They have beaten the Warriors in Oakland each of the past two seasons. That raises eyebrows, especially considering that the Warriors have lost a total of just seven home games during that same span.
The Celtics just added Gordon Hayward via free agency to a lineup that was the number 1 seed in the Eastern Conference last season. If the Warriors can finally figure out a way to beat the Celtics in the Bay Area, it would go a long way in quashing any concerns that the Celtics pose a significant threat to the Warriors in a potential NBA Finals matchup.
March 19 at the San Antonio Spurs
The Warriors have seemingly unseated the Spurs as the dominant Western Conference team, but the Spurs themselves might still need a little more convincing. They were up by more than 20 points in the second half of game one of the Western Conference Finals but promptly unraveled after Kawhi Leonard's injury.
The circumstances allow for a “what if...” narrative to linger between the two squads and a game like this in mid-to-late March is an opportunity for the Spurs to send a message. San Antonio won 61 games last season and added Rudy Gay via free agency this offseason. A win for the Spurs in this game would prove that they can still hang with the Warriors.
April 3 at Oklahoma City Thunder
April 3 is not the first time the Warriors will play in Oklahoma City during the regular season, but it could end up being the most influential. With the playoffs right around the corner, both teams would love the psychological boost that comes with vanquishing a conference powerhouse, along with any ascension in the standings that result.
Oklahoma City still does not seem to have forgiven Durant for leaving them. Combined that with Russell Westbrook’s historic triple-double season last year and the addition of Paul George this offseason, Thunder fans are going to be amped up to stick it to their former idol and his new friends. Westbrook might be the reigning the MVP, but Durant got his championship. There is going to be a lot of emotion left out on the court in this one.
It’s impossible to predict every development that occurs over the course of a season, but these are the contests that seem to jump out the most. The Warriors have a target on their back, and every team in the league will be sure to bring their very best in any attempt to impede the champs, if only for a brief moment.