Rivalries, returns and rookies: The NBA games you can’t miss for 2022-23

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The NBA’s 2022-23 schedule is here, and the league won’t waste any time delivering fans some star-studded showdowns.

Opening week is stacked, with the defending Eastern Conference champion Boston Celtics hosting the Philadelphia 76ers on Oct. 18 — the first night of the season — followed by the Los Angeles Lakers looking to spoil ring night for the NBA champion Golden State Warriors.

The following night features four teams with massive questions hovering over them. Zion Williamson is slated to return after an injured foot sidelined him for the entire 2021-22 campaign. His New Orleans Pelicans face the Brooklyn Nets, the league’s biggest newsmaker this summer.

Oct. 19 also features a rematch of the Western Conference semifinals between the Phoenix Suns and Dallas Mavericks. The last time these teams faced off, Dallas blitzed Phoenix in Game 7 to reach the West finals. Luka Doncic and the Mavs will showcase a retooled backcourt after free agent Jalen Brunson signed with the New York Knicks last month.

And those are just the first two nights! Throughout the season, there will be plenty more playoff rematches, reunion games, rookie showdowns and battles that could help decide the race for MVP.

Here are the games we can’t wait to see in 2022-23.

Note: This list of games does not include the NBA’s five Christmas Day games, which are previewed here.

Grand opening: Star-studded first-week matchups


Philadelphia 76ers at Boston Celtics
Oct. 18, 7:30 p.m. ET | TNT

In the first game of the 2022-23 season, we’ll get the first look at the Celtics on the heels of their Finals loss to the Warriors. But the Celtics added plenty of depth this offseason in Malcolm Brogdon and Danilo Gallinari, so opening night could be an indication of where Boston will pick up. They’ll be facing the 76ers, who are looking to start the year with the group they put together mid-season, headlined by Joel Embiid and James Harden. — Kendra Andrews


Los Angeles Lakers at Golden State Warriors
Oct. 18, 10 p.m. ET | TNT

The Warriors’ championship run last season was many things, one of the most important being the polite shutdown of any suggestions that the Golden State dynasty was finished. The ring ceremony on opening night will be the final celebration of that statement. And it will be done in front of LeBron James — a staple during the Warriors’ dynastic run. — Andrews


New Orleans Pelicans at Brooklyn Nets
Oct. 19, 7:30 p.m. ET

Zion Williamson is one of the most highly anticipated returning players heading into the season because of, if nothing else, the mystique surrounding his health and his game. What the former No. 1 overall pick can deliver becomes even more important as the Pelicans look to take the next step in their development. The Nets, meanwhile? There isn’t a franchise with more questions hovering above it than Brooklyn. One thing Nets fans can likely cheer for is the anticipated return of Ben Simmons to NBA action after sitting out the entire 2021-22 season. But who will be joining him? — Andrews


Denver Nuggets at Utah Jazz
Oct. 19, 9 p.m. ET

After missing the last year and a half with a torn ACL, Jamal Murray‘s return is what the Nuggets hope will take them from playoff team to title contender. There was a lot of speculation toward the end of last season if Murray would join the Nuggets for the playoffs, but he wasn’t ready physically or mentally. Now he’ll finally be back, and the Nuggets are hopeful his return, along with Michael Porter Jr.’s, will be the support reigning two-time MVP Nikola Jokic needs. — Andrews


Dallas Mavericks at Phoenix Suns
Oct. 19, 10 p.m. ET | ESPN

The stench from the Suns’ Game 7 home humiliation — when Luka Doncic matched the entire Phoenix team’s scoring total in the first half — could linger in the desert for a while. But Chris Paul, Devin Booker and Co. won’t have to wait long to get a shot at a small measure of revenge, opening the season at home against the Mavs. — Tim MacMahon


Milwaukee Bucks at Philadelphia 76ers
Oct. 20, 7:30 p.m. ET | TNT

P.J. Tucker proved to be the final piece of the Bucks’ championship puzzle a couple of seasons ago. The 76ers are hoping that Tucker has a similar impact after joining Joel Embiid and former Rockets teammate James Harden in Philadelphia. Count on Tucker serving as the primary defender against his title teammate Antetokounmpo. — MacMahon


LA Clippers at Los Angeles Lakers
Oct. 20, 10 p.m. ET | TNT

Quite a few players are returning to action this season after injury. But Kawhi Leonard, who is coming off ACL surgery and missed the entire 2021-22 season, is the one whose impending return is expected to vault the Clippers into title contention. Although he is supposed to play in a few preseason games, the Clippers’ opening-night matchup against the Lakers will give the first official glimpse of Leonard. — Andrews


Boston Celtics at Miami Heat
Oct. 21, 7:30 p.m. ET | ESPN

The Heat’s summer pursuit of Kevin Durant and Donovan Mitchell in the trade market suggests that the Miami front office believes a significant roster upgrade is required to get out of the East. However, the Heat took the Celtics to seven games in the East finals despite Kyle Lowry and Tyler Herro being hampered and missing time due to injuries. — MacMahon

Bad blood? Must-see reunions


Brooklyn Nets at Philadelphia 76ers
Nov. 22, 7:30 p.m. ET | TNT

This figures to be one of the most emotional games on the entire schedule — especially given that the Philly fans spent last year’s matchup in March directing profanity-laced chants at Ben Simmons, even though the new Net was just sitting on the bench and ended up not even playing all season. The underrated part of this matchup could be the chance for Kyrie Irving and James Harden to go against each other again. — Nick Friedell


Minnesota Timberwolves at Utah Jazz
Dec. 9, 9 p.m. ET

There figures to be plenty of thank you signs in Salt Lake City for this one. Thanks to Gobert for developing into one of the best defensive big men in the game over nine seasons — and thanks to the Timberwolves for giving up five first-round picks. — Friedell


New York Knicks at Dallas Mavericks
Dec. 27, 8:30 p.m. ET

The diminutive point guard carved out a nice niche for himself in Dallas, but this particular return figures to be a little angrier than usual given the circumstances surrounding Brunson’s departure — and the fact that the NBA is currently looking into whether the Knicks, who hired Brunson’s dad, Rick, tampered. It will be fun to see former teammates Brunson vs. Doncic in this environment. — Friedell


Boston Celtics at Indiana Pacers
Feb. 23, 7 p.m. ET

Brogdon doesn’t have the longtime ties to the city like others do on this list, but the Pacers will miss the stability he brought to the floor when he was healthy enough to play. In Boston, his acquisition gives hope that he can be one of the missing pieces the Celtics need to win their first title since 2008. — Friedell


Atlanta Hawks at San Antonio Spurs
March 19, 4 p.m. ET

Murray developed into one of the better young guards in the game over five seasons in San Antonio, but the deal from the Hawks, which included three future first-round picks and a pick swap was just too good for the rebuilding Spurs to pass up. The Hawks are hoping Murray, and the defensive presence he brings, will be the perfect counterpart for Trae Young. — Friedell

Run it back: More big postseason rematches


Golden State Warriors at Dallas Mavericks
Nov. 29, 7:30 p.m. ET | TNT

The Mavs didn’t make the West finals much of a series, but there’s always potential for the spectacular when Doncic and Curry meet. Case in point (a lot of them, actually): The superstars combined to score 99 points — 57 by Curry, 42 by Doncic — in a Mavs’ home win in February 2021. — MacMahon


Boston Celtics at Golden State Warriors
Dec. 10, 8:30 p.m. ET | ABC

Tatum struggled in the series (36.7 field goal percentage), but reigning Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart might have the most to prove against the Warriors in this Finals rematch, considering Stephen Curry shredded the Celtics’ defense en route to his first Finals MVP. Boston will host Golden State on Jan. 19 (TNT). –– MacMahon


Minnesota Timberwolves at LA Clippers
Dec. 14, 10 p.m. ET | ESPN

Let’s be honest: This matchup lost some luster when Patrick Beverley, the ex-Clipper who got so much glee from playing a role in his former team’s premature exit, got traded to Utah in the Rudy Gobert deal. Good thing Anthony Edwards is more than capable of picking up the trash-talking slack, although the presence of Paul George and Kawhi Leonard makes LA a much more dangerous foe than the team the Timberwolves bounced. — MacMahon

Hollywood nights: Lakers, Clippers take center stage


Phoenix Suns at LA Clippers
Oct. 23, 10 p.m. ET | NBA TV

The Clippers — without Kawhi Leonard — might have been a Valley-Oop away from beating the Suns to make it to the 2021 NBA Finals. We’ll potentially get to see what this would look like with both teams at full strength, as the Clippers have passed the Suns as West favorites. — McMenamin


LA Clippers at Golden State Warriors
Nov. 23, 10 p.m. ET | ESPN

Who you got? The Warriors going for their fifth ring of the Curry Era or the Clippers looking to take home the first title in franchise history? Coming into the 2022-23 season, these two teams are on everybody’s short list of potential champions, and this could prove to be a preview of an epic postseason clash. — McMenamin


Los Angeles Lakers at Milwaukee Bucks
Dec 2, 7:30 p.m. ET | ESPN

The Wesley Matthews revenge game! In all seriousness, anytime that LeBron James shares the court with Giannis Antetokounmpo — who already has half as many MVPs (two) and a quarter as many titles (one) while being 10 years younger — fans get a glimpse of the past, present and future of the NBA all at once. L.A. hosts Milwaukee on Feb. 9 (TNT). — McMenamin


Los Angeles Lakers at Cleveland Cavaliers
Dec. 6, 7:30 p.m. ET | TNT

In three games in Cleveland since joining the Lakers (a fourth was canceled because of the league’s COVID-19 hiatus), LeBron James has averaged 38.7 points, 10.7 rebounds and 8.3 assists in three wins back in his native Northeast Ohio. With James entering his 20th season, there are precious few games left for him in The Land, which makes this a must-see matchup. — Dave McMenamin


Boston Celtics at Los Angeles Lakers
Dec. 13, 10 p.m. ET | TNT

Let the race for banner No. 18 commence. The Celtics looked primed to leapfrog the Lakers for championship supremacy when they went up 2-1 on the Warriors in the Finals, but Stephen Curry’s masterful series kept the franchise title count between the Lakers and Celtics tied at 17 — for now. Boston hosts L.A. on Jan. 28 (ABC), in a game LeBron could pass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the league’s all-time leading scorer. — McMenamin


Memphis Grizzlies at Los Angeles Lakers
Jan. 20, 10 p.m. ET | ESPN

“That’s your last time disrespecting me,” LeBron James barked at Desmond Bane when the Lakers and Grizzlies locked horns last season, according to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon. Another regular season tête-à-tête will determine if Bane has any disrespect left in the tank or not. — McMenamin

First-year fireworks: Rookie debuts and showdowns


Orlando Magic at Detroit Pistons
Oct. 19, 7 p.m. ET

The NBA has paired the last two No. 1 picks on opening night. Paolo Banchero won’t defend Detroit guard Cade Cunningham, but he will surely match up at times with recent Pistons first-round picks Jalen Duren and Isaiah Stewart in a clash of two promising young teams. — Kevin Pelton


Houston Rockets at Atlanta Hawks
Oct. 19, 7:30 p.m. ET

Jabari Smith Jr. is headed home to begin his NBA career in his native Georgia. Smith grew up and played just outside of Atlanta before heading to nearby Auburn for one season in college. He should have friends and family in attendance as he matches up with Hawks forward John Collins. — Pelton


Oklahoma City at Minnesota Timberwolves
Oct. 19, 8 p.m. ET

Chet Holmgren‘s debut will test him against perhaps the NBA’s best frontcourt, which pairs three-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert with two-time All-NBA pick Karl-Anthony Towns. We’ll get an early indication whether Oklahoma City wants Holmgren to defend on the perimeter or stay in the paint. — Pelton


Orlando Magic at Atlanta Hawks
Oct. 21, 7:30 p.m. ET

Before his NBA debut, Banchero already has an NBA rivalry with fellow Seattle native Dejounte Murray. They lit up social media by exchanging words after Murray showed up Banchero in Isaiah Thomas‘ “Zeke-end” tournament. This will be their first meeting since then. — Pelton


Orlando Magic at Oklahoma City Thunder
Nov. 1, 7:30 p.m. ET | TNT

We missed out on a Banchero-Holmgren matchup at the NBA summer league in Las Vegas because Orlando shut down Banchero before facing OKC. So this will be our first look at them squaring off since Duke beat Gonzaga in Nov. 2021 — behind 21 points from Banchero. — Pelton


Houston Rockets at Orlando Magic
Nov. 7, 7:15 p.m. ET

Everyone seems happy with Orlando’s draft-night curveball to take Paolo Banchero No. 1 instead of Jabari Smith, who dropped to Houston at No. 3. Still, there will be extra juice when they face each other for the first time in the regular season. — Pelton

MVP! MVP! These games could help decide the winner


Dallas Mavericks at Milwaukee Bucks
Nov. 27, 8 p.m. ET | NBA TV

Milwaukee’s Antetokounmpo and Dallas’ Doncic are frontrunners in ESPN’s Summer Forecast for MVP. The Mavs’ early April win in Milwaukee, when Doncic had 32 points and a season-high 15 assists, provided a pretty strong hint that Dallas was capable of a deep playoff run. Dallas hosts Milwaukee on Dec. 9 (ESPN). — MacMahon


Golden State Warriors at Milwaukee Bucks
Dec. 13, 7:30 p.m. ET | TNT

The Curry vs. Holiday matchup is an intriguing subplot when the last two championship teams meet. Holiday is perhaps the NBA’s premier guard defender, but Curry has averaged 26.0 points on .493/.429/.914 shooting splits in 22 games against him, 16 of which were Warriors wins. Golden State hosts Milwaukee on March 11 (ABC).— MacMahon


Denver Nuggets at Milwaukee Bucks
Jan. 25, 8 p.m. ET

Here’s a pretty good reason to pay attention to a regular-season meeting between small-market teams: It features the players who split the last four MVPs. Giannis Antetokounmpo’s Bucks broke through to win the 2020-21 title. If Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. can stay healthy, Nikola Jokic’s Nuggets have a legitimate championship chance this season. Denver hosts Milwaukee on March 25. — MacMahon


Denver Nuggets at Philadelphia 76ers
Jan. 28, 3 p.m. ET | ABC

Think Embiid circles this one on his calendar? The 76ers’ big man is still seeking his first MVP after finishing as the runner-up behind Denver’s Nikola Jokic the past two seasons, so you can count on Embiid coming into this matchup with a massive chip on his shoulder. The Nuggets won the only head-to-head matchup between the superstar centers over the last two seasons. Denver hosts Philly on March 27 (NBA TV). — MacMahon

Every team’s full 2022-23 schedule

Atlantic: BOS | BKN | NYK | PHI | TOR
Central: CHI | CLE | DET | IND | MIL
Southeast: ATL | CHA | MIA | ORL | WAS
Pacific: GS | LAC | LAL | PHX | SAC
Southwest: DAL | HOU | MEM | NO | SA
Northwest: DEN | MIN | OKC | POR | UTAH

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