The 2014-15 NBA schedule has been released, and there’s no shortage of exciting matchups for basketball fans to circle on their calendars.
Many of the best games to watch involve the Cleveland Cavaliers, who were bolstered in the offseason by signing LeBron James to a free-agent contract. James returns to his original team and hometown, with the goal of bringing the Cavs their first NBA championship. Cleveland also is expected to acquire Minnesota Timberwolves All-Star forward Kevin Love via trade.
Here’s a look at 10 must-watch games on this season’s schedule.
Oct. 28: Dallas Mavericks at San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs, who will raise their fifth NBA championship banner on opening night, and the Mavericks met in the first round of last year’s Western Conference playoffs. San Antonio won the series in seven games.
Oct. 29: Chicago Bulls at New York Knicks
Derrick Rose is back after missing most of the last two seasons with knee injuries, and he will lead a Bulls team with title aspirations into Madison Square Garden for both teams’ season openers.
Oct. 30: New York Knicks at Cleveland Cavaliers
LeBron James’ first game in Cleveland since Game 5 of the 2010 Eastern Conference semifinals will be on the day before Halloween against the Knicks. It’s Cleveland’s season and home openers, and it also could be the first time we see James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving playing together in a meaningful game.
The Knicks will be led by superstar forward Carmelo Anthony, who re-signed with the team over the summer.
Oct. 31: Cleveland Cavaliers at Chicago Bulls
James and Rose go head-to-head in a likely Eastern Conference finals preview. This also will be Rose’s first game in Chicago since he suffered a season-ending knee injury in 2013-14.
Dec. 5: Los Angeles Lakers at Boston Celtics
Both rivals were lottery teams last season, and even though they aren’t expected to do much in 2014-15, Celtics-Lakers games always are exciting. The history of the rivalry creates plenty of interest, and a few of the players involved in the 2008 and 2010 NBA Finals matchups still are on the respective rosters, including Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo and Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant.
Dec. 11: Cleveland Cavaliers at Oklahoma City Thunder
James and Kevin Durant, the two best players in the NBA and the last two league MVPs, will square off for the first time of the season in mid-December. It’s also a potential NBA Finals preview.
Dec. 25: Cleveland Cavaliers at Miami Heat
LeBron James will return to Miami for the first time on Christmas Day. The four-time NBA MVP spent the last four seasons with the Heat, helping them reach the NBA Finals in each year and winning two titles (2011-12 and 2012-13).
Jan. 23: Cleveland Cavaliers at Minnesota Timberwolves
This January matchup would be Love’s first game back in Minnesota if he’s traded. It will be interesting to see what kind of reaction he receives from the T-Wolves crowd. Spoiler: It won’t be a positive one.
March 12: Cleveland Cavaliers at San Antonio Spurs
James will lead his Cavaliers into San Antonio for a late-season matchup against the Spurs that could be a 2015 NBA Finals preview. James and the Heat lost to the Spurs in a five-game NBA Finals last season. The superstar forward also lost to the Spurs in the 2007 NBA Finals when he was with the Cavs.
April 7: San Antonio Spurs at Oklahoma City Thunder
These rivals have met in the playoffs in two of the last three seasons. The Thunder were eliminated on their home court by the Spurs in Game 6 of last year’s Western Conference semifinals. This late regular-season game could have a huge impact on which team secures the top seed in the West playoffs.