The NBA released the first half of the schedule for the 2020-21 NBA season Friday afternoon, which tips off with a doubleheader on Dec. 22, featuring the Brooklyn Nets and Golden State Warriors in the first game and the champion Los Angeles Lakers and crosstown rival Los Angeles Clippers continuing their rivalry to close out opening night.
From there, the Wednesday night slate will feature two potential playoff previews. The Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics will kick off the evening, and then Chris Paul will make his Phoenix Suns debut in a battle with the Dallas Mavericks. The league released the schedule through March 4, 2021, which is either 37 or 38 games for each team. Releasing the schedule in portions will allow flexibility for make-up games if needed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While the league finished the 2019-20 season safely inside a bubble environment down in Orlando, the NBA is opting to compete the upcoming season in each team's home market, with some franchises allowing fans to attend games.
Earlier this week, the league released their Christmas Day schedule as well. The day will begin with the Miami Heat hosting Zion Williamson and the New Orleans Pelicans. The battle of the two-time MVPs follows, with Stephen Curry and his Golden State Warriors battling Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks. Kyrie Irving will then play his first game in Boston as a member of the Brooklyn Nets, and the headliner will be a duel between LeBron James and Luka Doncic, as the defending champion Lakers host the up-and-coming Mavericks. The evening closes with a second-round rematch between the Clippers and the Denver Nuggets.
On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the NBA has a full slate of games with 10 matchups, highlighted by the Memphis Grizzlies hosting the Suns, the Bucks traveling to Brooklyn to take on the Nets and the Warriors and Lakers finishing out the night in Los Angeles.
As previously discussed, the league has opted to go with game series this season to reduce travel in order to curb the spread of the coronavirus, which will see teams playing teams multiple times consecutively in order to limit the number of times a team needs to travel to a specific location. The first instance of this will happen between the Orlando Magic and Atlanta Hawks, with the two teams playing each other consecutively in Georgia, on Dec. 11 and the 13th.
Some intriguing matchups to watch out for will be when Kevin Durant and the Nets travel to the Bay Area, for Durant to play against his former Warriors team for the first time since leaving in the summer of 2019. That matchup will happen on Feb. 13. A rematch of the 2020 NBA Finals will take place on Feb. 20, with the Lakers and Heat clashing in Los Angeles, and Russell Westbrook and John Wall will get an opportunity to play their old teams after being traded for each other this week on Feb. 15 in Washington, D.C.
While the turnaround between the ending of last season and the start date for this new one is the quickest in league history, the NBA wanted to get back on its traditional schedule as much as possible going forward, and wanted to wrap up the season before the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo in the summer. In order to do that, the league reduced the number of regular-season games from 82 to 72, and postponed All-Star Weekend in Indianapolis to 2024.