Culture of Hoops

Top 10 NBA Games to Watch in 2014-15


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Image courtesy of Josh Hallett/Flickr.

Image courtesy of Josh Hallett/Flickr.

With the brunt of the NBA offseason in the books, Team USA gearing up for international play, and the nation getting reacquainted with the return of the NFL and NCAA Football season, I’ll be talking about various subjects throughout the weeks leading up to the start of NBA training camps. Next up, the top 10 NBA games to watch for the upcoming 2014-15 season.

10. Dallas Mavericks at San Antonio Spurs (October 28)

You can’t start the 2014-15 NBA season without checking out Tim Duncan and coach Gregg Popovich raising their fifth championship banner together. After the ceremony, you get the pleasure of watching the NBA champs take on the only team to push them to seven games—the Dallas Mavericks. The Spurs return their entire championship squad while their rivals return with key additions like Chandler Parsons, and one of the main cogs that was a part of the Mavs’ 2011 championship team in Tyson Chandler. Also, who can resist watching two Hall of Fame players in Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki clash once again?

9. Houston Rockets at Los Angeles Lakers (October 28)

There are so many narratives here. Dwight Howard makes his return to Hollywood. Kobe Bryant lacing up and making his much anticipated return to the hardwood. Jeremy Lin facing his old team right of the bat. Whatever reason you decide to watch this game, I’m sure many of you would agree: It’s going to be a treat to watch Kobe playing in purple and gold. Can he return to his elite form coming off two big injuries? Can Jeremy Lin bring Linsanity to the City of Angels? Will James Harden play defense? This will also be former Lakers player and current head coach Byron Scott makes his debut. What kind of team will the Lakers be? So many questions will be mostly answered when “Rocket Man” and the “Bearded One” face off against the Black Mamba.

8. Cleveland Cavaliers at Chicago Bulls (October 31)

Don’t have plans for Halloween? Spend your evening watching Chicago’s hometown hero in Derrick Rose make his return (again) against LeBron James, who returned to Cleveland during the offseason. This is a game many are deeming an Eastern Conference Finals preview. It is also the home debut of probably the best player in Europe, Nikola Mirotic. While many Bulls fans will be cheering for Derrick Rose, don’t be surprised if you hear a collective sigh of relief when reality sets in that Carlos Boozer isn’t on the roster anymore.

7. New York Knicks at Brooklyn Nets (November 7)

The Battle of the Boroughs continues as the new Knicks head coach Derek Fisher takes on the new Brooklyn Nets head coach Lionel Hollins. How will the Knicks be under Fisher? How will the Nets be under Hollins? Both teams should be getting players back as well: Andrea Bargnani for the Knicks; Brook Lopez for the Nets. How will each player perform? Can Brook return to his 2012 All-Star form? Or will he fall to the backseat of emerging big man Mason Plumlee? We can’t forget about Carmelo Anthony. He dropped a considerable amount of weight over the summer and looks leaner and meaner. Will the new, slim Carmelo be able to lead his team back to the playoffs this season? It’s too early to answer, but we’ll get a glimpse of things to come.

6. Memphis Grizzlies at Oklahoma City Thunder (November 7)

Here we are at one of the biggest, most intense rivalries of the NBA. When the Grizzlies aren’t coming to blows with Blake Griffin and the new era Los Angeles Clippers, they’re going to war with Kevin Durant and the OKC Thunder. This is one of those games that will probably end up being the NBA’s first double-overtime of the season with Steven Adams and Zach Randolph in the post reenacting the Shaquille O’Neal vs. Charles Barkley fight back in the days of beepers and cassettes. Whatever the outcome of this game will be, one thing’s for sure: Russell Westbrook will get blamed for it.

5. Milwaukee Bucks at Minnesota Timberwolves (November 26)

The day before Thanksgiving will be a real treat as we get to see the heir apparents of the NBA face off. Andrew Wiggins-Jabari Parker should be an absolute must-watch for NBA fans this season. As crazy as that sounds, this is the first time these two teams had some buzz going since Ray Allen played for the Bucks and Kevin Garnett was punching tickets for the Wolves into the big dance. Another name the world will have to get to know (and use Google to pronounce) will be Giannis Antetokounmpo (ah-ten-toe-koom-po), who is known as the “Greek Freak.” He may be in his second year, but this kid’s talent is stunning and he may end up taking the spotlight away from Wiggins and Parker.

4. Cleveland Cavaliers at Oklahoma City Thunder (December 11)

If Spider-Man vs. Venom were a basketball game, it’d be this one. Why use that analogy? Venom never defeated Spider-Man and Kevin Durant has never defeated LeBron James as a Cavalier. Durant currently holds an 0-5 record against LeBron and the Cavs with losses coming by an average of 15.2 points. This one in particular is going to be a star-studded matchup with Kyrie Irving going against Russell Westbrook, LeBron James tangling with Kevin Durant, and now, Serge Ibaka versus Kevin Love. This matchup could be an NBA Finals preview and Kevin Durant can certainly add fuel to the fire if he dishes LeBron James an L.

3. Chicago Bulls at Los Angeles Lakers (January 29)

Hopefully Kobe Bryant and Derrick Rose are tallying up All-Star votes for their stellar play up to this point, but this is about a beloved Laker-turned-Bull. That’s right, Pau Gasol makes his return to Hollywood to face his former team, the Los Angeles Lakers. Carlos Boozer will be playing against his former team, but I doubt any Bulls fans really care that he was amnestied. Lakers fans on the other hand will give Pau Gasol a big standing ovation when he takes center stage in Staples Center. Kobe and Rose will ultimately bring all the attention back to them, but it will be interesting to see if Gasol can burn the Lakers like he used to burn other teams as a Laker.

2. Oklahoma City Thunder vs. San Antonio Spurs (March 27, April 7)

These two matchups between the presumed top two teams in the almighty Western Conference are very important. The Spurs and Thunder aren’t necessarily a rivalry, but more like the student versus the sensei. The Thunder haven’t gotten past the Spurs since 2012 when James Harden was coming off the bench, and at this point, that little trend doesn’t seem to be looking like it’s going to change unless Kevin Durant lights a fire in his belly and does what all great NBA players of past and present are capable of doing: Beating the best.

1. Cleveland Cavaliers at Miami Heat (December 25)

This game is No. 1 because it is probably the biggest game of the year right now. Sure, LeBron and the Cavs face the reigning champions in the San Antonio Spurs later on, but with LeBron going back to Cleveland, the only history he has against them is that big ol’ doughnut in the 2007 Finals (0-4). Miami is a different animal. It’s not quite on the same level as when LeBron faced the Cavs as a member of the Heat, but it’s pretty significant to say the least. How will Miami Heat fans react to LeBron? Will they thank him for taking them to four straight finals, winning two of them? Will they boo LeBron for leaving South Beach? Can Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh overcome the loss of LeBron James? Consider this a Christmas gift from Adam Silver to NBA fans because this game will surely be one of the highlights of the season.

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