Top 10 NBA Games to Watch in 2012-13
The offseason may have started off quietly but there’s certainly no shortage of headlines taking over the back pages as we gear up for the final run up to the season proper. Whether it’s Dwight Howard’s niggling back or Brooklyn’s dazzling new arena, Delonte West’s detrimental behavior or Dirk’s knees, the drama unfolding now is sure to carry over to the regular season and make for an exciting season.
With less than two weeks until tipoff, here’s a look at the 10 most intriguing matchups on the slate this season.
1. Miami Heat at Los Angeles Lakers
(January 17, 10:30 PM ET) – Make no bones about it; everybody’s waiting for the new look Lakers to take on the retooled Heat. Fans have put a circle around this fixture since Shaquille O’Neal switched sides in 2004 and this year has the added bonus that the Heat (11/5) and Lakers (5/2) are favorites to win the whole damn thing. The only downside is that we have to wait until January to see the behemoths collide.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder at Miami Heat
(December 25, 5:30 PM ET) – If a certain No. 12 hadn’t shipped out to Los Angeles, this fixture would have been the biggest game of the season. As it stands, an NBA Finals rematch on Christmas Day will fill that post dinner void, and certainly beats awkward conversations, drunken uncles, and knitted socks. The Thunder (9/2) is third favorites to take the Larry O’Brien trophy come June.
3. Los Angeles Lakers at Oklahoma City Thunder
(December 7, 9:30 PM ET) – It makes sense then that this season’s ‘Big Three’ round out our top three games to watch. Considered by many to be a preview of the Western Conference Finals, this matchup – the first of four between the teams – will be a good test early to see how offseason moves have really affected the power balance in the west. The Lakers will be looking for revenge too, after last season’s miserable playoff series.
4. New York Knicks at Brooklyn Nets
(November 1, 7:00 PM ET) – New name, new building, new uniforms, new roster. It’s a big year for the team formerly known as the New Jersey Nets, and what better way to tipoff the season and christen the Barclays Center than with a visit from the New York Knicks. NYC bragging rights will be on the line early as both teams look to get off to a solid start. As for Jay-Z’s team, don’t kid yourself that they’re even considering finishing below the Knickerbockers this season. Oddsmakers don’t believe they will. The Nets (30/1) have shorter odds of winning it all than their Big Apple counterparts (35/1).
5. Los Angeles Lakers at Orlando Magic
(March 12, 7:00 PM ET) – If we were to forsake actual basketball action and look solely at tabloid appeal, this would be the most eagerly awaited game of the season. Dwight Howard – the biggest villain Central Florida has seen, which is saying something with Disney World just around the corner – makes his return to the scene of the crime. By March the Lakers should be in the hunt for a high playoff berth while the Magic will likely be long out of the picture so this will be all about the boo birds, unless, of course, Howard somehow doesn’t make the game. Injury? Flu? Prior engagement? The way everything else has played out in this story, who’d put money against ‘Superman’ not showing up?
6. Houston Rockets at New York Knicks
(December 17, 7:30 PM ET) – While it might not have the potential to explode into an ugly scene like Howard’s return to Orlando has, Jeremy Lin’s return to New York will be eagerly anticipated. Linsanity was the talk of the town for a good few weeks in 2012, and fans found themselves rooting for the underdog story. But Lin bolted for Houston and a fat paycheck. How will fans react now? In all honesty, expect the former Harvard man to get a round of applause. Fans will level this one at the ownership not getting the job done.
7. New York Knicks at Dallas Mavericks
(November 21, 8:30 PM ET) – Jason Kidd, one of Lin’s replacements in Manhattan, will make his own return this year, visiting the team he led to the 2011 NBA championship. Kidd’s departure this summer wasn’t by any means a marquee storyline, but Mavericks owner Mark Cuban’s reaction – which was bitter to say the least – will make this return one worth keeping an eye on.
8. Miami Heat at Boston Celtics
(March 18, 8:00 PM ET) – Over recent years there’s been very little need to fan the fire of this particular rivalry, but Ray Allen’s switching of allegiance has done exactly that. The best shooter in the history of the game will return to Beantown late in the season, hopefully just in time for some serious playoff implications.
9. Charlotte Bobcats at New Orleans Hornets
(November 9, 8:00 PM ET) – These two teams might look out of place on this list but there’s no denying this will be an intriguing matchup, and not because the Hornets are playing the team they used to be (sort of). Instead, this will be the first meeting between former Kentucky teammates, Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, the No. 1 and No. 2 picks in this year’s draft. Davis is big time favorite (19/10) to take Rookie of the Year honors, while Kidd-Gilchrist (9/1) is a not very close second. This early season encounter will be a good chance to see how those particular odds might pan out over the season.
10. Los Angeles Clippers at Los Angeles Lakers
(November 2, 10:30 PM ET) – Finally, the cross-hallway rivalry at Staples Center is much improved on when that building first opened back in 1999. The Clippers are no longer the NBA’s doormat, and with the addition of a number of veterans (Grant Hill, Lamar Odom, Jamal Crawford) should be a better team than last year. But can the Clippers beat the Lakers? Game one of four will give us an early idea.