Rematches, reunions and rookie debuts: The NBA games we can’t wait to see in 2021-22

News

The NBA schedule is here. And unlike last season’s unveiling that broke games into first and second halves, we know all 1,230 games up front.

The 2021-22 season tips off on Oct. 19 with the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks hosting the Brooklyn Nets on ring night. The last time these two Eastern Conference titans faced off, Kevin Durant was inches away from sending the Nets to the Finals, leading to an epic Game 7 overtime thriller that went to Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks.

Following Nets-Bucks, the Los Angeles Lakers will unveil their new Big Three of LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook — Big Four if you include new Laker Carmelo Anthony — in a Staples Center showdown against the Golden State Warriors.

The opening week — and entirety of the 2021-22 season — is loaded with renewed rivalries, reunions and playoff rematches. Here are the games we can’t wait to see.

Note: This list of games to watch does not include the NBA’s five Christmas Day games, which were revealed on Tuesday.

MORE: What we can’t wait to see on Christmas Day

First-week fireworks: The must-see openers

Brooklyn Nets at Milwaukee Bucks
Oct. 19, 7:30 p.m. ET | TNT

This game is the perfect way to tip off the season, a virtual Game 8 to their classic playoff matchup in which the winner went on to claim the championship. The stars on the two teams have made a habit of taking subliminal shots at one another, with James Harden stating just this week that if the Nets are healthy, they can’t be beaten. And we get an early look at Giannis Antetokounmpo vs. Kevin Durant with “best player in the NBA” arguments swirling. — André Snellings


Golden State Warriors at Los Angeles Lakers
Oct. 19, 10 p.m. ET | TNT

This game features teams and players who won five of the six NBA championships between 2015 and 2020, and both teams have championship aspirations this season after having last season derailed by major injuries. If Klay Thompson returns healthy, the Warriors will feature three pillars of their dynasty for the first time since the 2019 Finals. And the Lakers will be rolling out a new look with a team full of future Hall of Famers learning to play together, sparked by Russell Westbrook in his debut with his hometown team. — Snellings


Dallas Mavericks at Atlanta Hawks
Oct. 21, 7:30 p.m. ET | TNT

Luka Doncic and Trae Young were traded for each other during the 2018 NBA draft, and will therefore always be linked in the public eye. Doncic went on to win Rookie of the Year and become an MVP candidate early, but Young has put the Hawks on his shoulders and just led them on an improbable run to the Eastern Conference finals. This matchup gives us another chapter in a budding next-gen rivalry. — Snellings


Milwaukee Bucks at Miami Heat
Oct. 21, 8 p.m. ET

The Heat were in the NBA Finals less than a year ago, and arguably their biggest deficit might have been a star, playmaking point guard who could run the squad and make big shots at high-leverage moments. Enter NBA champion Kyle Lowry, who analytics indicate is one of the best point guards of his generation and has a style and personality that fits perfectly within Heat culture. It will be very interesting to see this new Heat squad, and whether it has the chops to make another run at the championship. — Snellings


Brooklyn Nets at Philadelphia 76ers
Oct. 22, 7:30 p.m. ET | ESPN

These were the Nos. 1 and 2 seeds in the Eastern Conference last season, and both have active championship aspirations. They also represent a major stylistic clash, with the perimeter-based Big Three of the Nets facing the individual, interior dominance of arguably the best center in the NBA in Joel Embiid. Plus, the burning question of whether Ben Simmons will still be on the 76ers when the season begins will be answered. Snellings


New Orleans Pelicans at Chicago Bulls
Oct. 22, 8 p.m. ET

The Bulls made some of the biggest splashes this summer, bringing in Lonzo Ball and DeMar DeRozan, right after they made one of the biggest moves at the trade deadline by bringing in center Nikola Vucevic. ESPN’s offseason survey showed disagreement in the success of the Bulls’ moves, but the product on the court should be fascinating to watch evolve. Add in the possibility of Ball throwing half-court alley-oops to Zach LaVine against his former team, and this should be a debut to watch. — Snellings


Phoenix Suns at Los Angeles Lakers
Oct. 22, 10. p.m. ET | ESPN

The Suns used their first-round win over the Lakers to propel themselves to the NBA Finals. It’s a good bet LeBron James and Anthony Davis haven’t forgotten. The defending Western Conference champs, though, are flying under the radar again after the Lakers’ big offseason. Russell Westbrook going up against Chris Paul is always entertaining, and Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton will be eager to show their first-round win over the hobbled Lakers was no fluke. — Ohm Youngmisuk

Rivalries renewed: More can’t-miss playoff rematches

Denver Nuggets at Phoenix Suns
Oct. 20, 10 p.m. ET | ESPN

“Suns in 4” was the motto as Phoenix swept the short-handed Nuggets out of last season’s playoffs. It should be a bit more even fight this time around. Although Denver point guard Jamal Murray will likely miss this matchup during his ACL rehab, the Nuggets were also dealing with an injury to shooting guard Will Barton last spring and added first-round pick Bones Hyland to their backcourt mix to try to counter Devin Booker and Chris Paul. — Kevin Pelton


Atlanta Hawks at Philadelphia 76ers
Oct. 30, 7:30 p.m. ET | NBA TV

The big question for this playoff rematch is whether Ben Simmons will be part of it. Simmons struggled in the biggest moments of Philadelphia’s seven-game upset loss to Atlanta, making just one field goal and scoring four points in 14 clutch minutes, per NBA Advanced Stats. That performance, and the reaction to it, put Simmons’ 76ers future in jeopardy. It remains unresolved midway through the offseason. — Pelton


Dallas Mavericks at LA Clippers
Nov. 21, 3:30 p.m. ET

Luka Doncic gave the Clippers all sorts of fits and forced Kawhi Leonard and Paul George to seven games in the first round before succumbing. Doncic looked like a superstar in the playoffs and could be primed for an MVP-type season under new head coach Jason Kidd. The Mavericks will want to show the Clippers that they are ready to move past them this season in the standings and the playoffs, but Paul George and Reggie Jackson will certainly have something to say about that. — Youngmisuk


Phoenix Suns at LA Clippers
Dec. 13, 10:30 p.m. ET | NBA TV

The last time we saw Suns-Clippers, Patrick Beverley shoved Chris Paul in utter frustration before Paul celebrated his first trip to the NBA Finals. While Beverley is gone, Paul George and the Clippers have some unfinished business with the Suns after running short on gas and health at the end of their playoff run. George said if Kawhi Leonard had stayed healthy, the Clippers would have been the ones moving on to the NBA Finals instead of the Suns. This rematch will help show the Clippers where they stand without Leonard. — Youngmisuk


LA Clippers at Utah Jazz
Dec. 15, 10 p.m. ET | ESPN

When last we saw the Jazz, the NBA’s top team during the regular season surrendered an unthinkable 81 points in the second half of a season-ending loss to a Clippers team without Kawhi Leonard — more points than the Clippers would manage in the entire Game 4 of the conference finals. The rematch might be a different story if Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue is unwilling to rely as heavily on the small-ball units that caused problems for Utah defensively. — Pelton


Phoenix Suns at Milwaukee Bucks
Feb. 10, 10 p.m. ET | TNT

If it seems like just last month we were watching Milwaukee and Phoenix square off in the NBA Finals, it’s because we were. The two finalists will get relatively short offseason breaks before returning to action. We’ll see how the Suns respond to losing their last four games after taking a 2-0 series lead against the Bucks and whether the matchup advantages Giannis Antetokounmpo was able to exploit hold up with a slightly different supporting cast. — Pelton

Hollywood drama: More L.A. games you need to see

Los Angeles Lakers at Portland Trail Blazers
Nov. 6, 10:30 p.m. ET | NBA TV

Carmelo Anthony was on the way out of the NBA before the Blazers gave him a chance during the 2019-20 season. Once Anthony made it to Portland, he revitalized his career with his best and third-best 3-point shooting seasons of his career. Last season, embracing a bench role for the first time, Anthony made a career-high 40.9% from deep. Now with the Lakers, Anthony once again will have a new role, but one that wouldn’t have been there without Portland’s help. — Andrew Lopez


Los Angeles Lakers at Milwaukee Bucks
Nov. 17, 7:30 p.m. ET | ESPN

The NBA’s last two champions square off in what will be a juicy matchup. For the first time in his stellar career, Giannis Antetokounmpo faces LeBron James as reigning champion and Finals MVP. The Bucks’ star trio of Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday will put their championship defense up against the Lakers’ revamped offense featuring James, Anthony Davis, Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony. This too is a potential Finals preview, and who knows: Perhaps Antetokounmpo and James will settle who had the more impressive Finals chase-down block. — Youngmisuk


LA Clippers at Los Angeles Lakers
Dec. 3, 10 p.m. ET | ESPN

Kawhi Leonard is expected to miss significant time after his ACL injury and top Laker agitator Patrick Beverley is gone, which takes a lot of the sizzle out of the Lakers-Clippers rivalry. But Paul George will do his best to try to keep the Clippers in the playoff hunt while Leonard is out, and head coach Tyronn Lue’s team will be eager to show the revamped Lakers why they finished just two wins shy of the NBA Finals even without Leonard. — Youngmisuk


Los Angeles Lakers at Brooklyn Nets
Jan. 25, 7:30 p.m. ET | TNT

This potential Finals preview is the ultimate gift on Christmas Day, but the juggernauts’ other meeting this season could be just as important. And there’s plenty of history between the two sides. Whether it’s Russell Westbrook facing former teammates Kevin Durant and James Harden or LeBron James taking on Irving, there are so many layers to unwrap. Westbrook enjoyed some of his best games last season against the Nets, including a 41-point, 10-rebound performance that featured a late 3-pointer to stun Brooklyn. — Youngmisuk

Welcome back! More reunions to watch

Miami Heat at Indiana Pacers
Oct. 23, 7 p.m. ET | NBA TV

Victor Oladipo‘s time in Indiana came to an unceremonious end, and the veteran has yet to play a game against his former team since being traded (twice) last season. Oladipo’s injuries have limited him to just 88 games in the past three seasons, but he’ll try to get his career back on track with Miami on a minimum deal. — Lopez


Minnesota Timberwolves at LA Clippers
Nov. 13, 10:30 p.m. ET

If Patrick Beverley remains in Minnesota after he was dealt by the Clippers to Memphis and then sent to the Timberwolves, this Wolves visit to Staples Center should be an emotional one. Beverley became one of the Clippers’ all-time fan favorites with his intensity, defense and vocal leadership. Beverley was the team’s spirit for so many years, and his return to Staples will be a sight to see, especially if Beverley gets under the Clippers’ skin like he did to their opponents for so many years. — Youngmisuk


New York Knicks at Boston Celtics
Dec. 18, 8:30 p.m. ET | NBA TV

When Boston acquired Kemba Walker in the summer of 2019 in a sign-and-trade with the Charlotte Hornets, the Celtics gave him a four-year, $140.8 million deal. He was supposed to be the point guard to lead the Celtics back to the NBA Finals. Instead, injuries hampered him over two seasons and he was ultimately traded to Oklahoma City. The Thunder bought out Walker’s contract and allowed him to return to his native New York to sign with the Knicks on a much more team-friendly deal. — Lopez


Brooklyn Nets at San Antonio Spurs
Jan. 21, 8:30 p.m. ET

Another Spurs homecoming to watch will be when Patty Mills returns to the AT&T Center with the Nets. The Aussie point guard spent the previous 10 seasons in San Antonio — the final holdover from the Spurs’ last title in 2014. Expect a hearty ovation for Mills as he returns to town. — Lopez


Chicago Bulls at San Antonio Spurs
Jan. 28, 8:30 p.m. ET

The Bulls added DeMar DeRozan from the Spurs as they look to get over the hump in the Eastern Conference. DeRozan didn’t find the team success he would have liked in San Antonio, failing to win a playoff series in his first season before missing out on the postseason entirely the past two years. He did flourish as a playmaker in San Antonio, averaging 6.2 assists per game, which was double his average from his Toronto days. — Lopez


Brooklyn Nets at Golden State Warriors
Jan. 29, 8:30 p.m. ET
| ABC

Kevin Durant played against the Warriors in San Francisco last season, but he did so at a time when no fans were allowed inside the Chase Center. This time around, it’ll be a little different. It’ll be the second meeting between the teams in the 2021-22 season, but it’ll be the first in San Francisco after Durant and Draymond Green put the blame on Steve Kerr and Bob Myers mishandling the situation that led to Durant’s exit. — Lopez


Miami Heat at Toronto Raptors
Feb. 3, 7:30 p.m. ET | TNT

One of the more anticipated reunions in the league will happen when the Miami Heat travel to Toronto to take on the Raptors, representing Kyle Lowry’s return to Canada. After nine seasons in Toronto, Lowry moved on to Miami this offseason. Last season, the Raptors didn’t play home games at the Scotiabank Arena, so Lowry’s return to Toronto will come 706 days after his last game there (Feb. 28, 2019). — Lopez


Los Angeles Lakers at Washington Wizards
March 19, 8 p.m. ET

Russell Westbrook played only one season in Washington and while it was memorable with him surpassing Oscar Robertson’s triple-double record, this reunion will be more meaningful for a few new Wizards. Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will definitely be eager to face their old team for the first time to try to remind the Lakers what they gave up for Westbrook. Kuzma, in particular, should have plenty of motivation to show why the Lakers once insisted on not trading him out of all of their young prospects a few seasons ago. — Youngmisuk


Chicago Bulls vs. New Orleans Pelicans
March 24, 8 p.m. ET

In Lonzo Ball’s introductory news conference with Chicago, he said, “I wanted to go somewhere I’m appreciated and can play my game. Chicago is the perfect place for that.” In New Orleans, Ball ceded some of the control of the game in the half court to Zion Williamson and was reduced to more of a 3-and-D player. Will he get full reign back in Chicago alongside DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine? That remains to be seen, but his first game against his former team should be fun to watch. — Lopez

Welcome to the NBA: Big rookie debuts and showdowns

Chicago Bulls at Detroit Pistons
Oct. 20, 7 p.m. ET

The No. 1 overall pick’s NBA debut means a lot of firsts for potentially one of the future all-time greats of the game — first basket, first assist, first dunk. Basically, it’s an NBA Top Shot fiesta of opportunities. Cade Cunningham‘s game is built to be NBA ready, with his impressive size, sturdy frame and polished game, meaning there’s a chance he sets a high bar in his first appearance for Detroit.

— Royce Young


Houston Rockets at Minnesota Timberwolves
Oct. 20, 8 p.m. ET

No. 2 overall pick Jalen Green is probably the most electrifying player in the draft, with a personable swagger and extreme physical ability to go with it. His summer league screamed of him being the kind of player your eyes can’t look away from, and with an unwavering confidence in his own skill, you can bet he’s going to want to send a message in his first game out for the Rockets.

— Young


Detroit Pistons at Houston Rockets
Nov. 10, 7:30 p.m. ET | ESPN

This game gives us the treat of No. 1 draft pick against No. 2, with the added bonus of Detroit’s Cade Cunningham and Houston’s Jalen Green playing in the backcourt, meaning there will be some head-to-head moments. While Cunningham was seen as the likely top pick from the very beginning of the draft process, Green made a late push for consideration. And now with a chance for Green to go against Cunningham, there’s a pretty delicious narrative built into this game.

— Young


Toronto Raptors at Golden State Warriors
Nov. 21, 8:30 p.m. ET

Before the draft process began, Jonathan Kuminga was seen as a top-four lock, one of the upper-tier players who made this class seemingly so special. But as his stock dropped slightly, Scottie Barnes‘ rose in place of it. The Warriors’ Kuminga is a nightly highlight waiting to happen, while the Rockets’ Barnes is the steady five-tool player. This game is a battle of contrasting styles, and one in which there will surely be some takes following it.

— Young

Orlando Magic at Houston Rockets
Dec. 3, 8 p.m. ET

The Battle of the Jalens is much more than Jalen Suggs vs. Jalen Green — it’s a matchup of two of the most competitive players in the draft. After his raucous Final Four performance, Suggs vaulted up draft boards as a dark-horse top-pick candidate, but he slipped down to the the Magic at No. 5 (slipped being a pretty loose description here). Suggs’ motor and intensity are hallmarks of his game, and there will be a point to prove against the Rockets’ Green, who went second overall.

— Young

Products You May Like

Articles You May Like

Magic guards reinvent fitness with absurd ‘exercise’ (Video)
Trevor Ariza out at least 8 weeks after ankle procedure
Sources: Irving to practice with Nets in Brooklyn
No ‘fixed timeline’ on Zion’s return to Pelicans
NBA season preview: 5 big questions for Philadelphia 76ers

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *