The NBA released the first half of its regular season schedule on Friday as it continues to navigate this upcoming season with the uncertainty going on in the world around the league right now.
Usually, the NBA would simply release its full 82-game slate all at once. But to account for possible delays, cancellations, and new developments outside the NBA, they’ve released just the first half of the intended 72-game schedule, which will run from opening day on December 22nd until March 4th, when the league will stop for a six-day All-Star Break.
This rollout schedule allows the NBA to maintain some flexibility before announcing the second half of the regular season schedule knowing that they will not have the safe haven of a bubble at the Disney World Resort outside of Orlando, Florida like they did for the tail end of last season.
The season will be opening up on December 22nd with a marquee double-header featuring the reloaded Brooklyn Nets (-215 odds to win the game on 888sport) hosting the Golden State Warriors (+170 odds) and the L.A. Clippers (+118) taking on the defending champion L.A. Lakers (-143) in the nightcap. With the injury to Klay Thompson and the chemistry issues seemingly continuing to plague the Clippers, a Nets-Lakers parlay would net you solid +150 odds that offer great value on what is pretty close to a sure thing.
The five-game slate on Christmas Day is overflowing with marquee matchups as well. In the first game of the day at noon, the youthful New Orleans Pelicans (+188 odds to win the game on 888sport) head to South Beach to take on the defending Eastern Conference champion-Miami Heat (-235).
The new-look Milwaukee Bucks (-335 odds to win the game on 888sport) will then host the undermanned Warriors (+260), followed by an Atlantic division clash between the Nets (-117) and the Boston Celtics (-104), a showdown of Western Conference MVP candidates between LeBron James’ Lakers (-278) and Luka Doncic’s Dallas Mavericks (+225), and a highly anticipated rematch of last season’s biggest upset of the playoffs between the Clippers (-120) and Denver Nuggets (-103) capping off the holiday in the late slot.
After that series of big-time games to start the season off the schedule gets a little more calm, but there are still some very intriguing matchups to circle on your calendar. Kevin Durant and his Nets will head to Golden State to take on the Warriors on February 13th in the Durantula’s first game at Oracle Arena since leaving as a free agent.
Another pair of contests you might want to keep your eyes peeled for are those between the Houston Rockets and Washington Wizards, who just swapped superstar point guards a few days ago. Russell Westbrook and the Wiz will head to Houston on January 26th for Russ’ return, and John Wall and the Rockets will visit Washington on February 15th in Wall’s comeback.
Martin Luther King Jr. Day is another big one for marquee NBA matchups. The holiday, which falls on the 18th of January in 2021, will feature a trio of enticing matchups: Chris Paul, Devin Booker and the upstart Phoenix Suns take on Ja Morant’s promising Memphis Grizzlies; the Bucks head to Brooklyn to take on the Nets in a clash of Eastern Conference titans; and the Steph Curry-carried Warriors head down to the City of Angels to take on the defending champion Lakers.
During the first half, each of the NBA’s teams will play 37 or 38 games, 17 to 20 of which will be played in their home arena. So far, 558 of the 1,080 total regular season games envisioned for this NBA campaign have been scheduled.
The NBA has also taken a page out of the MLB’s playbook, intending to make use of baseball-style series scheduling wherein intraconference teams will play two straight games against each other in the same city. Teams will play four of these baseball-style series in the first half of the season, half at home and half on the road.
The scheduling czars for the NBA also managed to slice the number of single-game road trips for teams in half. The league is also limiting team travelling by scheduling more consecutive road games against teams in the same loose geographic area than they’ve previously done in the past, such as when the Toronto Raptors will play four straight away games against teams all in the general West Coast area (Phoenix, Sacramento, Golden State, Portland) in early January.