|LeBron James' Heat and Kevin Durant's Thunder will meet on Christmas. (Getty Images)|
The NBA officially released its 2012-13 schedule on Thursday.
The league returns to its traditional 82-game slate after the lockout cut the 2011-12 schedule to just 66 games. Here's a link to the full schedule on NBA.com.
This year's schedule begins on Tuesday, October 30, 2012 and ends on Wednesday, April 17, 2013.
The 2012 NBA champion Miami Heat will begin their title defense by hosting the Boston Celtics in a rematch of the Eastern Conference finals at American Airlines Arena on Oct. 30. The newest member of the Heat, Ray Allen, gets a chance to face his former team.
Opening night will feature two other games: The Washington Wizards at the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Dallas Mavericks at the Los Angeles Lakers. The former will see a match-up of up-and-coming point guards in John Wall and Kyrie Irving plus a face-off between 2012 lottery picks Bradley Beal and Dion Waiters. The latter will see Steve Nash's debut for the Lakers against one of his former teams, alas it won't be the Phoenix Suns.
The Lakers will then travel to Portland to face the Trail Blazers on Wednesday, Oct. 31, with Nash welcoming lottery pick Damian Lillard to the NBA. Also on Halloween, the San Antonio Spurs will visit the New Orleans Hornets, a match-up pitting Tim Duncan against 2012 No. 1 pick Anthony Davis.
On Thursday, Nov. 1, the New York Knicks will open their season by visiting the crosstown Brooklyn Nets and the Western Conference champion Oklahoma City Thunder will visit the Spurs.
The highlight of the league's calendar is always Christmas Day, which will feature five games this season. The Christmas Day headliner will feature the Heat hosting the Thunder in a rematch of the 2012 NBA Finals. The NBA's two best players, LeBron James and Kevin Durant, will go head-to-head in the third game of the day.
The other four Christmas Day games: the Celtics at the Nets, the Knicks at the Lakers, the Houston Rockets at the Chicago Bulls and the Denver Nuggets at the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Christmas opener between the Celtics and Nets will be a showcase of the Atlantic Division's traditional power versus the hard-charging Nets, who re-signed All-Star guard Deron Williams, Gerald Wallace and Brook Lopez and traded for All-Star guard Joe Johnson.
Next, the Knicks and Lakers will pit Kobe Bryant against Team USA teammates Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler. Nash, Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol and Amar'e Stoudemire will fill out the big-market showdown at Staples Center.
The biggest Christmas question mark, by far, is the Rockets/Bulls match-up, as 2011 MVP Derrick Rose is not expected to play as he recovers from a knee injury. That leaves Houston's Jeremy Lin as the headliner, unless you were really intrigued by Omer Asik's restricted free agency move from Chicago to Houston.
The nigthcap between the Nuggets and Clippers figures to be an alley-oop spectacular, with Ty Lawson and Andre Miller looking to find newly re-signed center JaVale McGee while Chris Paul will try to hook up Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.