With the release of the 2018-19 NBA regular season schedule, teams and fans alike were able to circle marquee dates. Of course, much of the interest surrounding the Los Angeles Lakers has to do with LeBron James.
His arrival presumably played a role in the Lakers being due to lead the league in national TV broadcasts. They also will have a strong presence on big dates during the NBA calendar, including Christmas Day and Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
From huge rivalries to former players making their return, we give you a look at the top 10 Lakers games to look forward to this season.
Thursday, Oct. 18 @ Portland Trail Blazers
No, it isn’t who anyone thought would be the first game of the season, but still, IT’S OPENING NIGHT!!!!
This will be James’ first game that counts in a Lakers jersey, and fans get their first look at how the team will operate, rotations, lineups, everything that matters. And the Blazers are no pushover.
Though the Lakers went 0-3 against Portland last season, all three contests came down to the final seconds. Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum always seemed to have the edge in crunch time over the young Lakers, but with a different team this year, the Lakers will be looking to change that.
Saturday, Oct. 20 vs. Houston Rockets
LeBron’s first regular season game inside Staples Center will be a big one. The Rockets had the best record in the Western Conference last season and will be looking to take that next step and win an NBA championship.
They also have a reigning MVP by the name of James Harden and two members of the ‘Banana Boat Crew’ in Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony, so James should be extra motivated.
One of the Lakers’ best performances a season ago came in Houston when Kyle Kuzma dropped 38 points on the road to end the Rockets’ 14-game winning streak. The two sides also had a double-OT thriller, along with the famous ‘Andre Ingram Game.’
If the Lakers plan on being among the NBA’s elite, this will be a game to put the rest of the league on notice.
Thursday, Oct. 25 vs. Denver Nuggets
The last time the Nuggets visited Staples Center they encountered one of the most hostile crowds witnessed in some time. Thanks to Jamal Murray trolling Lonzo Ball on multiple occasions, a rivalry began brewing and the Lakers faithful let Murray hear it. A near fight at the end of that game only means there is some unfinished business.
The Nuggets made a big addition this summer as well, signing former Lakers point guard Isaiah Thomas. He and LeBron have an interesting bit of history from their brief time together in Cleveland. Not to mention Thomas and Rajon Rondo don’t necessarily see eye-to-eye, leading to an altercation last year as well.
Lakers fans don’t forget, and there is no doubt the fans will be ready to go on this night.
Sunday, Nov. 4 vs. Toronto Raptors
Many thought Kawhi Leonard would be a Laker, but a trade never materialized and the San Antonio Spurs ultimately dealt him to the Toronto Raptors. Of course, Leonard is an unrestricted free agent this summer and a likely target of the Lakers who will be looking to add another star.
Reaction to Leonard will be worth watching as Lakers fans are known to serenade potential signings with a lot of love. This will be Kawhi’s only Staples Center appearance against the Lakers.
Not to mention the Raptors had the East’s best record last season and are hoping Leonard will take them to that next level. Anytime LeBron vs. Kawhi takes place it’s one of the NBA’s premier matchups.
Wednesday, Nov. 21 @ Cleveland Cavaliers
While maybe not the biggest date for Lakers fans, the entire world will be watching when LeBron James makes his return to Cleveland for the first time as a member of the Lakers.
The first time LeBron returned to Cleveland as a member of the Miami Heat, it was one of the most angry, vicious crowds the NBA had ever witnessed. Things should be much different this time around however, as James returned and brought Cleveland their first championship.
Expect a reception befitting of The King and a lot of love to be shown on this night.
Friday, Dec. 21 vs. New Orleans Pelicans
There were a lot of positives for the Lakers this summer, but in the eyes of most the biggest negative was not re-signing Julius Randle. Year four was a turning point for Randle who was arguably the team’s best player last season, especially down the stretch when he was an unguardable double-double machine.
Randle ultimately signed with the Pelicans, teaming up with likely MVP candidate Anthony Davis to form a very intriguing frontcourt.
This game marks Randle’s return to Staples Center where he will likely be showered with plenty of cheers from the Lakers faithful. Additionally, Rondo will square off with his former team for the first time.
Tuesday, Dec. 25 @ Golden State Warriors
Does this really need an explanation?? The young Lakers gave the Warriors all they could handle last season in four very close losses and in the previous three seasons always came away with one blowout win over the NBA’s reigning dynasty.
Over that same time period, James led the Cavaliers to four straight NBA Finals appearances and three straight Christmas Day matchups against these same Warriors. Now it all comes together in primetime on Christmas Day.
The Warriors are the defending champs and the standard by which all teams are measured. This will be the LeBron’s Lakers’ first chance to see where they stand against the best.
Wednesday, Jan. 2 vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
For nearly two years it was believed that Paul George was destined to become a member of the Lakers. Even when he was traded last summer to the Oklahoma City Thunder, George signing with the Lakers in free agency was a foregone conclusion.
Fast forward to July 1, 2018, and there was George at a party in Oklahoma City announcing that he was staying with the Thunder, without even taking a meeting with Magic Johnson and co. It was a truly shocking moment that very few saw coming.
Aside from being a showdown with another of the expected top teams in the West, this will be George’s first appearance in LA since spurning the Lakers this summer. Call it going out on a limb, but it’s likely that the fans reaction to George will be much different than a season ago.
Tuesday, Jan. 29 vs. Philadelphia 76ers
Last season marked a return of one of the Lakers’ best rivalries from previous years against the Philadelphia 76ers. Both teams were led by a promising young core and both showdowns last year had an energy around them unlike others.
The meeting in L.A. saw Joel Embiid dominate with 46 points in a Sixers win that culminated with him gloating to LaVar Ball. The rematch in Philadelphia produced one of the biggest highlights of the year with Brandon Ingram’s game-winning 3-pointer silencing the crowd.
Both teams are expected to be among the league’s best and with the foundation already being set last year, this could be one of the NBA’s best rivalries for years to come. There is no doubt that very few crowds will be as electric as the Staples Center one will be on this night.
Thursday, Feb. 7 @ Boston Celtics
It’s Lakers-Celtics. The NBA’s biggest rivalry just got a huge jolt as now the LeBron James-Kyrie Irving dynamic adds another layer to the already amazing story.
Things already began building last season with a couple of excellent contests including an epic Kuzma fourth quarter in a Lakers win at Staples Center last season. LeBron has also taken out the Celtics in each of the last two Eastern Conference Finals so there is history there as well.
Anytime the Lakers and Celtics are among the best teams in the league, the NBA is better for it. A potential NBA Finals preview?? Perhaps. But even regular season match-ups between these two teams can produce fireworks. There is simply nothing that can compare to Lakers-Celtics.
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