5 Most Highly Anticipated 2012-13 Games on L.A. Lakers Schedule

Stephen BabbFeatured ColumnistSeptember 14, 2012

5 Most Highly Anticipated 2012-13 Games on L.A. Lakers Schedule

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    For the most serious Los Angeles Lakers fans, every game is a highly anticipated one—especially with a new-look roster that has everyone wondering if even the sky really qualifies as a limit at all.

    But even with the general excitement surrounding this season's iteration of the never-ending Lakers dynasty, not all games are equal. Some will bring out the very best in this team and put it to the kinds of tests it will need before embarking upon its title push in earnest.

    Some will just make for an entertaining couple of hours, thanks to the personalities involved, the backstories that keep this league so intriguing, and of course, a few rivalry games for good measure.

    With Los Angeles looking more and more like the team to beat this season, just about every game might feel like a rivalry game.

    If you haven't already, though, here are five games to make sure you have circled on your Lakers calendar. And if you don't have a Lakers calendar, this is probably the year to make one.

December 7, 2012: Lakers at Thunder

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    A month into the season, Los Angeles Lakers fans should begin to get a better sense of what they have in this team.

    It won't look like a final product quite yet, but Dwight Howard will be healthy, and Steve Nash will have learned quite a bit about his new teammates. If this club has what it takes to win a title, we should at least starting seeing some signs before the new year.

    An especially promising sign would be a road win against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first meeting between the two teams since OKC ousted the Lakers in the conference semifinals.

    There's no question this game will mean more to the Lakers than it does the Thunder given how soundly L.A. was defeated in the playoffs. Another loss after a summer of so much improvement would leave a bad taste in the Lakers' mouths.

    This will be one of Mike Brown's first major tests, and it could be a sign of things to come for what's in store for this crew. 

December 25, 2012: Knicks at Lakers

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    For starters, this is a Christmas Day game, so it will have all the pomp and circumstance we've come to expect from the NBA and its ongoing effort to give people something to do when they finish opening presents.

    Lakers and Knicks fans will be treated to one heck of a gift with this one, as two of this summer's most improved teams square off in a classic East-West showdown that just might be a preview of an NBA Finals to come.

    We'll also get a first-hand look at the extent to which Tyson Chandler, Amar'e Stoudemire and Marcus Camby can slow down Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol. If post-play isn't your thing, just keep an eye on Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony—two of the very best scorers in the game.

    The Lakers will almost certainly enter this game as the favorites, but both clubs will have something to prove.

    Los Angeles will be looking to demonstrate some dominance after having had a couple of months for the revamped roster to gel, and New York will be looking to prove it's a legitimate contender.

January 17, 2013: Heat at Lakers

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    It's always a story when the Miami Heat come to town, even if you're the Los Angeles Lakers.

    The Heat are still the ones defending a championship. Chris Bosh may have acknowledged that L.A. is now the best team "on paper," during a radio interview with WQAM (h/t Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel), but both of these teams have a roughly equal shot at claiming this season's title until one of them proves otherwise.

    This game will be one such opportunity to do just that.

    It should also be an opportunity to see two very different styles at work. Whereas the Lakers will rely upon a dominant post presence and plenty of ball movement, the Heat will turn to their usual combination of up-tempo play and taking advantage of mismatches with their superior athleticism.

    It goes without saying, that game doesn't count for much more than bragging rights, but this one will give cause for some pretty compelling bragging rights.

February 7, 2013: Lakers at Celtics

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    If you don't think it's still a big deal when the Los Angeles Lakers face off against the Boston Celtics, then you must not have seen what those Celtics did in the playoffs last season.

    They'll be even better this time around on account of some added youth and a much deeper bench.

    As much attention as the Miami Heat have gotten, Boston could very well become the team to beat by the time the postseason rolls around, especially if head coach Doc Rivers has them clicking at the right time (and he always seems to).

    The game will also include some matchups worth following. While the Celtics won't have an answer for Dwight Howard, they'll be able to throw one of the very best all-around point guards on Steve Nash. Rajon Rondo's defense will make Nash work for everything he gets.

    And of course, there will be plenty more action involving the usual suspects like Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.

April 14, 2013: Spurs at Lakers

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    If their respective positions in the Western Conference standings are relatively fixed by this point in the season, the Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs may be more interested in resting their veterans than waging a hard-fought battle.

    If one or both of these squads is still vying for home-court advantage in the playoffs, we could have a good one on our hands.

    These teams' meetings last season weren't close, but there's no question they remain two of the most feared contenders in the West–regardless of what the Oklahoma City Thunder proved last season.

    The road to the NBA Finals almost always goes through Los Angeles and San Antonio, and 2013 will be no different. These rosters age like fine wines, and both are in store for what could be one of the best seasons in their respective franchise's histories.