The Top 10 Can’t Miss Games of the 2018-19 NBA season
The NBA released the full official schedule for its 2018-19 season on Friday. The NBA’s 73rd season begins on October 16, 2018 and ends on April 10, 2019.
For the fourth straight season, the number of back to back games to be played by all teams have been reduced to an all-time low. The average this season is 13.3 back to back games per team which is 31% lower than the 19.3 average during the 2014-15 regular season.
Likewise, there will be no team which will play four games in a five day stretch for the second consecutive season. Similarly, instances when a team plays five games in a seven day period have been reduced to 0.7 per team, down from the 1.2 average last season and 77% fewer than the 3.0 average during the 2016-17 season.
So that fans can easily follow the NBA’s 1230 total regular season games, the schedule has again been broken down by week with each week having a label. From week 1 to week 26, these labels will enhance awareness of the upcoming games and help promote storylines. Each week begins on Mondays and ends on Sundays.
The full schedule is loaded and the games are dope. But we went over the schedule and picked the Top 10 can’t miss games of the NBA’s 2018-19 season. So get your pens and papers. Take note of these games and save the date:
1. October 16, 2018 Philadelphia 76ers at Boston Celtics
This game has a lot of significance. First, it will be the first time that the Boston Celtics fans will see Gordon Hayward in a Celtics uniform at the TD Garden in a regular season game. Boston acquire Hayward during the 2017 free agency but he suffered a horrific injury on opening night last season in Cleveland. Hayward’s rehab has gone well and if there are no more hitches, the fans will finally see their second All-Star in action.
Secondly, the Celtics will also return Kyrie Irving. Irving missed the 2018 Playoffs because of a recurring knee injury but like Hayward, he is expected to return next season. Barring any delays in his recovery, the Celtics will finally play at full strength for the first time since opening night last season. Because the Celtics’ opening night ended in disaster last year, expect them to come out with plenty of fire in this game.
The Celtics will face the upstart Philadelphia 76ers who are led by Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. The Sixers had long been the doormat of the league but last season, after years of trusting Sam Hinkie’s process, the 76ers finally made the playoffs. They faced the Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals but were dominated by Boston. With a new season ahead, the Sixers will look to make a good first impression against the team which could very well be their main stumbling block in the East.
2. October 18, 2018 Los Angeles Lakers at Portland Trail Blazers
It’s the first regular season home game for the Portland TrailBlazers and after a disappointing 2017-18 season, expect the Blazers to try to bounce back. But sorry Blazers, this isn’t about you. Nor is it about Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. With all due respect, the Blazers are a good playoff team. But as we said earlier, this isn’t about you guys.
The Los Angeles Lakers have long courted max free agents in the past summers but have failed to land a big fish. Since Kobe Bryant’s retirement, the Lakers have been left without a star and a leader and that’s the reason they have been shopping for the last four or so seasons. Still, they couldn’t find the right guy.
So the Lakers built a young team via the draft. In 2016, they drafted Brandon Ingram with the second overall pick. In 2017, the Lakers picked Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart. This year, Los Angeles didn’t have a lottery pick but they still got a couple of decent youngsters. But that’s not the story of this game either. It’s LeBron James.
We said the Lakers failed to land a big fish in previous seasons but they caught the biggest catch of the summer when the signed LeBron James to their fold. Lakers fans have dreamed of LeBron wearing purple and gold and now this is it. For real! Forget that this game will be on the road. What matters is that Los Angeles now owns the biggest star in the league. Isn’t that just right because the big stars are meant for Hollywood?
November 15, 2018, Houston Rockets at Golden State Warriors
What if Chris Paul didn’t get hurt in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals? Houston fans believe that they could have closed out the champs in Game 6 of that series. Instead, without Chris Paul, the Rockets lost back to back games to the Warriors and the Dubs went on to sweep the Cleveland Cavaliers for their second straight NBA title.
You can make a good argument that had the Rockets closed out the Warriors, they would have been the favorites over Cleveland to win the 2018 NBA championship. A d championship would have been the icing on the cake for a super season by James Harden which led to his first NBA MVP award. But it is what its is right now and the Rockets must forget the past and look forward to the future. It begins with this game.
Since then, the Warrior have added a fourth all-star to their lineup in center DeMarcus Cousins. While Boogie won’t be playing in this game, he will be an added problem for the Rockets moving forward. The Warriors though lost key bench players like Javale McGee and ZaZa Pachulia but given they bagged Cousins, isn’t that an upgrade anyway?
The Rockets too lost Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah Moute in free agency. Thank God they retained Clint Capela. The youngster was slowly coming to his own last season. The Rockets need Capela’s inside presence to compliment Harden and Paul. But because GM Daryl Morey looks at this as an arms race, they added Carmelo Anthony during the summer to provide more firepower. Anthony was traded by the Thunder to the Hawks, who bought him out of hs contract. Lucky Houston was chosen by Melo as his next destination.
December 25, 2018, Los Angeles Lakers at Golden State Warriors
What better Christmas present a basketball fan can get than a game between the defending champions Golden State Warriors and a LeBron James led Los Angeles Lakers team? The best team in the planet vs the team with the best player in the planet is always a marquee match-up, regardless of the outcome.
The Lakers raised eyebrows by signing James then by adding mercurial talents like Javale McGee, Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson and Michael Beasley as LeBron’s supporting cast. Critics often laugh at this Lakers lineup but the diehards believe that Los Angeles has provided James with the best veteran talent to make him succeed. Los Angeles didn’t want to follow the Cleveland blueprint on how to surround James with talent. They wanted to do it their way.
For all those who frown at the LeBron’s new veteran crew, you don’t get it. Most signees are on one year deals meaning if things don’t work out, they will begin with a clean slate next season. And yes, the money to add a second superstar will be there next summer if needed.
As for the Warriors, they have actually gotten better on paper but we know that the target is on their back. Los Angeles has been hyped as a team that could possibly dethrone the Warriors. This is their chance to drive home that point. There is no other way to the title than through the champs. Beating them at their home floor would be big statement. It won’t be easy though. Just ask Bron.
December 25, 2018 Oklahoma City Thunder at Houston Rockets
Lakers vs Warriors on Christmas is explosive. But that’s not it for Christmas Day. The Oklahoma City Thunder also visit the Houston Rockets on Christmas day and it also promises to be another explosive contest.
The Thunder got a big sigh of relief when Paul George re-signed with the team. Last season, the Thunder traded away Victor Oladipo and Domanatas Sabonis in order to land George from the Indiana Pacers. But while getting George was genius, keeping him was a challenge because he was on an expiring contract and he was rumored to be eyeing a return to his hometown Lakers.
But while George is back, one-third of last season’s OK3- the thunder’s version of a Big Three, is no longer with the team. After a rather disappointing stint in Oklahoma City, the Thunder traded Carmelo Anthony last summer. Anthony was later bought out by the Atlanta Hawks and he is now with the Houston Rockets.
Not only will this be a match-up between two teams who are expected to challenge the Warriors, this is also a showdown between former Thunder teammates Russell Westbrook and James Harden who are the most recent MVP winners in the NBA. This is also Carmelo Anthony’s first game against his former Thunder teammates.
December 27, 2018 Philadelphia 76ers at Utah Jazz
Last season’s Rookie of the Year award was heavily contested between 2016 #1 pick Ben Simmons and the undisputed steal of the 2017 draft Donovan Mitchell. Simmons took the Sixers on his back and into the playoffs. He displayed supreme playmaking skills and at 6-10, he was a rare point guard often compared to the legendary Magic Johnson.
Simmons showed plenty of promise, with his passing, rebounding and ability to make plays. He complimented Joel Embiid, the oft injured big man who finally was healthy last season. The duo looks to lead the Sixers out of their long misery and into NBA royalty.
Mitchell meanwhile made the Utah Jazz fans forget about Gordon Hayward quickly. Hayward left the team in free agency last season to sign with the Boston Celtics. Aside from Hayward, the Jazz also lost starting point guard George Hill. But instead of falling apart, Mitchell rallied his teammates and Utah went on a great playoff run where they defeated the OKC Thunder in round 1.
Mitchell had a lot to say about not winning Rookie of the Year. He will most likely want to deliver a message to Simmons and the 76ers. It will be interesting to see who has gotten better over the summer. Both are ultra talented and want to prove that he is better than the other. This will be the perfect venue.
January 3, 2018 Toronto Raptors at San Antonio Spurs
The San Antonio Spurs have been the model of excellence and longevity in the league. The Spurs have made the playoffs in the last 21 seasons, and NBA record for the team and an NBA record for Gregg Popovich as the most consecutive postseason appearance by an NBA head coach. Really, Pop and the Spurs have been fool proof for years and the team isn’t just consisten on the court, they are also a well knit group outside it.
Enter Kawhi Leonard. In recent years, Leonard has emerged as the best player in San Antonio. He was a former Defensive Play of the Year winner and the 2017 NBA Finals MVP. Unfortunately, Leonard was the victim of ZaZa Pachulia’s dirty moves. Leonard suffered a quad injury during the 2017 playoffs and missed the start of last season.
But instead of getting better and returning to the lineup, Leonard played just a few games and then returned to the injured list claiming he was not 100%. Rumors began to spread about trouble in paradise. Leonard was reportedly not happy with how the Spurs handled his situation. At first, the Spurs tried not to say anything, perhaps in an apparent attempt to patch things up. But that did not happen.
Leonard was traded for Toronto’s top scorer DeMar DeRozan in a deal which surprised many, including DeRozan. Toronto was the Top seed in last season’s Eastern Conference bracket but was swept by the Cavs in round 2. So they fired Coach of the Year Dwane Casey and then turned its back of DeRozan by trading him. DeRozan wants this badly but likely just as bad as Kawhi does. So who wins? Don’t forget the date.
January 26, 2019 Golden State Warriors at Boston Celtics
By this time during the season, the Boston Celtics should have already established their presence in the Eastern Conference, that is if they can stay healthy. Boston is considered one of the frontrunners in the East since LeBron has headed out west. In fact, despite the Toronto Raptors snatching Kawhi Leonard, plenty of experts and analysts believe that the Boston Celtics are the team to beat in the Eastern Conference.
With Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Al Horford, this is one hell of a team in Boston. It could very well be the team that challenges the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals. So yes, this could be our first glimpse of the 2019 NBA Finals right here.
The Warriors are without doubt the team to beat this season. With the addition of DeMarcus Cousins, the Warriors are even much dangerous. But Boston also has an equally loaded line-up. With their All-Stars back and healthy, they are capable of beating any team in the league, the Warriors included.
Will the Celtics be the team that topples the Warriors Dynasty? Who knows. One thing’s certain. If all players from both teams are healthy to play in this game, this should be an explosive scoring game, one that will be fun to watch.
February 7, 2019 Los Angeles Lakers at Boston Celtics
The NBA’s premier rivalry has been revived. This storied rivalry had turned into a one-side affair with the demise of the Lakers in recent years and Boston’s ascent in the East. But with the Los Angeles Lakers adding LeBron James and several key veterans this summer, the rivalry should be alive, well and kicking.
The Lakers and Celtics traded championships during the 80s with Magic Johnson’s Showtime Lakers winning 5 titles and Larry Bird’s men in green winning three. The rivalry between Los Angeles and Boston was bolstered with former college rivals Magic and Bird. This time around, there is also a player rivalry involved.
LeBron James and Kyrie Irving were once teammates in Cleveland. In fact, they were the 1-2 punch who led the Cavaliers to their first ever NBA title in 2016. But the honeymoon was short-lived as Irving demanded a trade last season. He was later dealt to Boston where he led the Celtics back to prominence last season.
LeBron James signed with Los Angeles this summer and Magic Johnson hopes that King James will lead the Lakers back to the promised land. This will be another installment of the LeBron vs Kyrie friendly rivalry and one more chapter in the epic Lakers vs Celtics rivalry.
March 16, 2019 Oklahoma City Thunder at Golden State Warriors
This game is likely going to feature cupcakes and snakes for obvious reasons. We know how hurt the Oklahoma Thunder were after their first franchise player Kevin Durant left them for greener ( or should I say Golden?) pastures in Oakland. In Durant’s first season with the Warriors, he won his first NBA title and was Finals MVP.
Last season, Durant won his second straight NBA ring while the Thunder were booted out in Round 1 of the playoffs. KD is without doubt happy and sitting pretty in Golden State while his former tag team partner Russell Westbrook is working his behind full time just to get Oklahoma City to the playoffs. The struggle without KD is real for Russ.
Westbrook and Durant had their squabble after KD left. There was supposed to be a play in the 2017 NBA All-Star games that purportedly buried the hatchet but knowing how competitive a person Westbrook is, bygones will never be bygones. The rivalry still exists and it always will.
Anytime Westbrook vs Durant is on schedule, it’s always a must watch game. There is always plenty of drama. And both former MVP’s want to outdo the other. OKC too has a good team but perhaps not enough to topple the Warrior. Don’t tell that to Russell Westbrook though.