What You Need To Know: NBA Tip-Off

What better way to ring in the holidays than with NBA basketball?

Here is everything you need to know about the newest NBA season, as well as the key games that will kick off the 2020-21 NBA campaign.

The Basics

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the 2020-21 NBA will begin exactly 72 games after the last one ended. 

It will also feature only 72 games, as opposed to the normal 82-game slate that the NBA completes on a nearly annual basis, and in an effort to combat potential issues caused by COVID-19, the NBA will look to lessen travel for teams throughout the season.

The playoffs will once again feature a play-in tournament before the first round that will allow teams seeded 7-10 in their respective conferences to play their way into the postseason. 

The season will conclude on July 22, 2021. 

Tuesday, Dec. 22 – Opening Night

Golden State Warriors vs. Brooklyn Nets
7 p.m. ET, TNT

Even without All-Star guard Klay Thompson, Brooklyn’s season-opening matchup with Golden State won’t be lacking star power. 

Nets forward Kevin Durant will make his first appearance in a meaningful NBA game since June of 2019, after tearing his achilles in Game 5 of the 2019 NBA Finals.

Durant will be joined by new running mate Kyrie Irving, who played in just 20 games last season with Brooklyn, missing a majority of the year after undergoing surgery on his right shoulder.

Another major storyline will be Durant squaring off against the team that he won two championships with, led by a fresh Stephen Curry, who played in only five games last season after breaking his left hand.

For a second straight season, the Warriors will be without superstar guard Klay Thompson, who tore his left ACL in Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals – causing him to miss all of last season – and then tore his right Achilles tendon a little over a month ago, meaning he will be out for this season as well. 

With Thompson out, the Warriors will rely on the services of newly-acquired wings Andrew Wiggins – who played 12 games for Golden State last season – and Kelly Oubre Jr., who arrived in Golden State via trade late last month.

Tuesday night will also be the debut of James Wiseman, the No. 2 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. 

Los Angeles Clippers vs. Los Angeles Lakers
10 p.m. ET, TNT

The battle for Los Angeles will add another chapter on opening night, and this one will feature a ring ceremony for one team.

LeBron James and Anthony Davis proved to be the best duo in the NBA last season, and they enter this season as the favorites to repeat, with FOX Bet placing their odds at +275

Across the hall in STAPLES Center, the Clippers will look to recover from a disappointing playoff exit in the NBA bubble, after blowing a 3-1 series lead against the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference semifinals.

While it was a mostly up offseason for the Lakers, it was an up and down one for the Clippers, partially because of the Lakers. 

The Lakers signed reigning Sixth Man of the Year Montrezl Harrell, who spent the last three seasons with the Clippers.

They also added 2020 Sixth Man of the Year runner-up Dennis Schroder, veteran guard Wesley Matthews Jr., veteran forward Marc Gasol, and inked forward Kyle Kuzma to an extension. 

While the Clippers took a blow losing Harrell, they signed superstar forward Paul George to a max extension, and also extended sharpshooting guard Luke Kennard. 

However, the Clippers were not able to extend superstar wing Kawhi Leonard. 

Wednesday, Dec. 23

Milwaukee Bucks vs. Boston Celtics
7:30 p.m. ET, TNT

The Bucks can rest easier for the next several seasons after signing their franchise cornerstone Giannis Antetokounmpo to a long-term extension this offseason.

And now that the reigning two-time MVP is under contract for the foreseeable future, Milwaukee can focus solely on making an NBA Finals appearance, after securing the best record in the NBA the past two seasons before bowing out early in the postseason.

A presumably reinvigorated Bucks squads – now with Jrue Holiday in the fold – will get to test its mettle against a young, but experienced, Boston Celtics team, one that extended All-Star forward Jayson Tatum this offseason to the tune of five years, $195 million.

Friday, Dec. 25 – Christmas Day

New Orleans Pelicans vs. Miami Heat
12 p.m. ET, ESPN

The Heat were the surprise of the Orlando bubble, making it all the way to the NBA Finals and taking out the top-seeded Bucks along the way.

Now, they go from being the hunter to the hunted.

Miami will open the season defending their Eastern Conference crown against one of the most exciting young teams in the legaue, in New Orleans, led by a fresh and healthy Zion Williamson.

Golden State Warriors vs. Milwaukee Bucks
2:30 p.m. ET, ABC

Both teams will have already played their season-openers, but seeing two multi-time MVP winners square off is still must-see television.

Brooklyn Nets vs. Boston Celtics
5 p.m. ET, ABC

Another potential Eastern Conference playoff matchup awaits the Celtics in their second game of the season.

And this time, it marks the return of Kyrie Irving to TD Garden, a place he called home for two seasons from 2017-2019.

Dallas Mavericks vs. Los Angeles Lakers
8 p.m. ET, ESPN/ABC

The Lakers won the season series against the Mavericks last season (3-1), but their first matchup on Nov. 1, 2019, proved to be one of the most exciting games of the year, with the Lakers winning 119-110 in overtime.

The game will feature three MVP candidates in LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Luka Doncic which is more than enough star power to carry a primetime Christmas Day matchup.

Los Angeles Clippers vs. Denver Nuggets
10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

The Clippers will get a chance to exact some early revenge on the Nuggets for ending their playoff run in dramatic fashion just a few months ago. 

The Nuggets became the first team to come back from two 3-1 deficits in the same postseason, when they pulled off the epic comeback against the Clippers after eliminating the Utah Jazz in seven games in the first round. 

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