Top 25 Must-See Games on the 2013-14 NBA Schedule

Jake Lapin@lapin_62094Correspondent IAugust 7, 2013

Top 25 Must-See Games on the 2013-14 NBA Schedule

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    The NBA 2013-14 season schedule was released on Tuesday night, and fans finally know which games they are most looking forward to. The NBA season is a long, winding road, but there are some games that stand out among the others.

    Everyone likes a good old-fashioned Finals rematch. The San Antonio Spurs were seconds away from winning the championship, but the Miami Heat snatched it from them. The Spurs will be looking to get their revenge when the two teams meet again for the first time.

    Christmas day always brings us some fun games between rivals and contenders from across the league. The Heat, Lakers, Clippers, Spurs and other great teams will take the court on the holiest day of the NBA calendar. There are playoff rematches, division rivalries and star-studded matchups galore.

    There are teams that are battling in the standings, fighting for a city's pride, or that flat out don't like each other. There are old faces in new places that will return home. There are teams on the rise and teams on the downfall.

    Here's a look ahead at the best games this season has to offer.

25. Miami Heat vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

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    Date: February 20

    Television: TNT 8 pm ET

    Location: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City


    The Heat and Thunder faced each other in the Finals two seasons ago. LeBron James and the Heat came out on top for the Big Three's first championship together.

    Last season, OKC did not return to the Finals, largely due to Russell Westbrook suffering a season-ending knee injury. Westbrook will be back this season, as the Thunder will try to make it all the way back to the Finals.

    These two teams have their eyes on the prize, and it is a battle of wills every time they take the court together. 

24. Los Angeles Lakers vs. New York Knicks

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    Date: January 26

    Television: ABC 3:30 pm ET

    Location: Madison Square Garden, New York City


    The Lakers may have one of their worst seasons in recent memory. Kobe is still rehabbing from his torn Achilles, and it is still uncertain whether he will be back for this matchup.

    The bigger story of this game is the Carmelo Anthony factor. Everyone knows that the Lakers will pursue Melo next summer when he becomes a free agent. Anthony has said that he does not intend to leave the New York, but that could change if the Knicks underachieve yet again this year.

    It's hard to turn down an offer from one of the most storied franchises in the league, and it will be interesting to see how this Melo situation plays out both on and off the court.

23. Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Los Angeles Clippers

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    Date: November 13

    Television: ESPN 10:30 pm ET

    Location: Staples Center, Los Angeles


    If you like high-powered offense, then this is the game for you.

    Both of these teams are explosive offensively and are tremendously athletic. By the end of the season, they will both be fighting for a top spot in the Western standings. These two teams had disappointing finishes last year and are expected to do better.

    Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook are two of the premier point guards in the NBA, and they will inevitably put up a good fight. Don't forget about Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin either.

    The stars will shine in L.A. on this night, and you won't want to miss it.

22. Houston Rockets vs. Golden State Warriors

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    Date: December 13

    Television: ESPN 10:30 pm ET

    Location: Oracle Arena, Oakland


    The Houston Rockets and the Golden State Warriors were both major players during free agency this summer. The Rockets went out and got their big man Dwight Howard. The Warriors snagged Andre Iguodala to add depth to their backcourt and improve their perimeter defense.

    Both of these teams have vaulted their way to the top of the conference with their newest additions. The Rockets and Warriors are legitimate contenders now in the West.

    Beyond the new signings, this game has another interesting dynamic. Houston and Golden State developed a strong dislike for each other last season, which could be the beginning of a new rivalry.

    It all started during a regular season game last season, when the Rockets tied an NBA record for three-pointers in a single game with 23. This bombardment of threes was an embarrassment to the Warrior's defense. The Rockets ended the game with 140 points!

    Warriors' coach Mark Jackson did not care for the Rockets running up the scoreboard. After they tied the record, he told his team to intentionally foul so the Rockets could not break the record. Things got ugly and players were ejected. Players and coaches were called out in the press conferences. A new rivalry was born.

    The Warriors and Rockets were only separated by a couple games at the end of last year, and will be competing again this season. This nationally televised game will be marked on everyone's calendars.

21. Detroit Piston vs. Atlanta Hawks

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    Date: November 20

    Television: N/A

    Location: Philips Arena, Atlanta


    The Pistons and the Hawks will not be great teams next year, but they will be competing for playoff spots near the bottom of the East. After a handful of disappointing seasons, the Pistons have made big improvements to their roster. The Hawks, on the other hand, are on the decline.

    The main story line of this game will be Josh Smith's return to the ATL. J-Smoove was a big part of the Hawks' franchise the past several years, but decided to leave as a free agent.

    A lot of Detroit fans are curious as to how the Pistons will run their offense with Smith alongside big men Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond. They also now have Brandon Jennings in the mix.

    In a dramatic homecoming, a team on the rise will take on a team on the decline in what should be an entertaining game.

20. Indiana Pacers vs. New York Knicks

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    Date: November 20

    Television: ESPN 7 pm ET

    Location: Madison Square Garden, New York City


    The New York Knicks have high expectations. With the scoring champion and a terrific supporting cast, the Knicks are expected to bring championships back to NYC.

    Last season, the scrappy Indiana Pacers sent them home early. The Pacers stole the first game of the Eastern Semis in New York and then won the rest of their home games to take the series in six. The Knicks still have that bad taste in their mouth, and will be seeking revenge on Indiana on national TV early in the year.

    Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks will play host to Paul George and the Pacers in a playoff rematch and a longtime rivalry dating back to the Reggie Miller and Patrick Ewing era.

19. Miami Heat vs. New York Knicks

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    Date: January 9

    Television: TNT 8 pm ET

    Location: Madison Square Garden, New York City


    The Heat and the Knicks are guaranteed to put on a good show, especially at Madison Square Garden. The Knicks beat the Heat 3-1 in the season series, but never got the chance for a playoff showdown.

    The Knicks are considered to be the Heat's biggest threat in the East, but LeBron James will have something to say about that.

    Melo vs. LeBron. Enough said.

18. San Antonio Spurs vs. Memphis Grizzlies

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    Date: November 22

    Television: ESPN 8 pm ET

    Location: FedEx Forum, Memphis


    The Grizzlies had a great playoff run last season, only to be spoiled by the San Antonio Spurs. In the Western Conference Finals, the Spurs shut down the Grizz and swept the series.

    After a great season, Memphis was embarrassed by the Spurs. The Grizzlies ended the season losing four straight games. They were simply outmatched. This game on ESPN is the Grizzlies' chance to get back at San Antonio. 

    In the Grindhouse with the support of the home crowd, the Grizzlies have a great opportunity to beat the Spurs and show the nation that last year was not a fluke.

17. Houston Rockets vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

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    Date: December 29

    Television: NBATV 7 pm ET

    Location: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City


    The Rockets and Thunder made a great first round matchup last season. All-Star James Harden was up against his former teammates and a dominant OKC team. The drama was intensified, especially when Russell Westbrook went down with a knee injury on a controversial play.

    The Thunder ultimately won the series, but not before the damage was done. OKC lost the next round badly to Memphis in just five games without their All-Star point guard. Westbrook will be back next season, and you know he will still be holding a grudge against the Rockets and Patrick Beverley.

    This game in OKC will be intense. Fans will certainly be hyped up, and Beverley will have a target on his back. These teams will also be competing for a top spot in the standings.

    Russell Westbrook is already waiting anxiously for this showdown, and so should you.

16. Miami Heat vs. Los Angeles Lakers

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    Date: Christmas Day

    Television: ABC 5 pm ET

    Location: Staples Center, Los Angeles


    The NBA is bringing you some terrific matchups this holiday season. Two of the biggest personalities in the league will face each other in a Christmas day battle. 

    LeBron James and the defending champion Heat head to L.A. for a date with Kobe Bryant and the purple and gold. The Heat are the team to beat, while the Lakers are expected to have an unsavory season. Nevertheless, anything can happen on Christmas.

    When Christmas day comes, just sit back, relax and enjoy the show.

15. Oklahoma City Thunder vs. New York Knicks

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    Date: Christmas Day

    Television: ABC 2:30 pm ET

    Location: Madison Square Garden, New York City


    Another interesting game on Christmas day will be the Thunder taking on the Knicks in the city that never sleeps.

    Last season, Kevin Durant looked like he was well on his way to a fourth consecutive scoring title. Carmelo Anthony had something else in mind. Melo went on a scoring frenzy, eclipsing KD in the final weeks of the season. Durant sat out the season finale, a meaningless game for the Thunder, crowning Anthony the new scoring champion.

    Both of these guys can flat out score. Their Christmas matchup should be a back-and-forth affair and is a must-watch contest.

14. Chicago Bulls vs. Brooklyn Nets

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    Date: Christmas Day

    Television: ESPN 12 pm ET

    Location: Barclays Center, Brooklyn


    The list of exciting Xmas games continues, as the Bulls travel to Brooklyn to face the new-look Nets. The Bulls knocked out the Nets on their home court in a Game 7, but the Nets have brought in new faces this year.

    The Nets are going for it all this season, bringing in Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry in a trade with the Boston Celtics. The Bulls will also be better than last season, assuming former MVP Derrick Rose comes back from his ACL injury at full strength.

    This game will start Christmas off with a blast, so open your presents around the tree quickly so you can tune in to the Bulls taking on the Nets.

13. Los Angeles Clippers vs. Golden State Warriors

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    Date: Christmas Day

    Television: ESPN 10:30 pm ET

    Location: Oracle Arena, Oakland


    When the Clippers go to Oakland to face the Warriors, expect these two teams to light up the scoreboard brighter than your neighbors' Christmas lights. These teams like to score. A lot.

    Steph Curry and the sharp-shooting Warriors will go head-to-head versus Blake Griffin and the rest of Lob City. These two teams will battle it out for the honor of best team in California.

    It looks like it will be raining threes and alley-oops on Christmas this year, so dress appropriately.

12. Houston Rockets vs. San Antonio Spurs

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    Date: Christmas Day

    Television: ESPN 8 pm ET

    Location: AT&T Center, San Antonio


    This Texas two-step is the fifth and final Christmas game remaining on the countdown. The defending Western Conference champs take on the new and improved Rockets in what will be a memorable Christmas day contest.

    James Harden and crew will try to take over as the best team in Texas this season, but Tony Parker and the Spurs won't let that happen without a fight.

    This matchup is the best that Christmas has to offer this year. Two contenders will square off in an inner-state rivalry for the ages. The Rockets have not had a lot of success playing in San Antonio, losing their last six games in the AT&T Center. The last time they won in that building was back in 2010.

    The power is shifting in the West, as the Spurs get older each year and new teams begin to reach contention, such as the Rockets. It's a battle of generations in Texas on Christmas Eve.

11. San Antonio Spurs vs. Golden State Warriors

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    Date: March 22

    Television: NBATV 10:30 pm ET

    Location: Oracle Arena, Oakland


    The Golden State Warriors shocked the world with their dramatic playoff run last season. They took the mighty Spurs to six games before San Antonio finally shut the door on their Cinderella season.

    These teams had some unforgettable clashes in the Western Semis. Game 1 was a double overtime thriller that will go down as one of the greatest playoff games of the decade. The Spurs and Warriors went back-and-forth until San Antonio finally came out on top.

    This playoff rematch is one of the more exciting ones in the NBA this season. With the addition of Andre Iguodala, the Warriors are as strong as ever, and will be playing to get the attention of all the teams out West that they belong.

10. Oklahoma City Thunder vs. San Antonio Spurs

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    Date: January 22

    Television: ESPN 9:30 pm ET

    Location: AT&T Center, San Antonio


    The Thunder and the Spurs are the favorites to play in the Western Conference Finals. The past couple years they have clearly been the top two teams out West.

    Last season, they never met in the playoffs because Russell Westbrook went down with a knee injury. OKC edged out San Antonio the season before to face Miami in the Finals. This season, San Antonio cruised its way to a Finals appearance before falling short to Miami as well.

    You know that these two teams will be somewhere at the top of the standings when it's all said and done. This marquee matchup will be important for the standings and tiebreakers down the road. This contest will feature two of the NBA's best going at it with significant playoff implications at stake.

9. Miami Heat vs. Brooklyn Nets

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    Date: November 1

    Television: ESPN 8 pm ET

    Location: Barclays Center, Brooklyn


    The Heat are unquestionably the team to beat in the East. Every other team in the East is retooling in an attempt to take down the defending champs.

    Brooklyn made a blockbuster trade to rise among the other teams trying to dethrone Miami. With Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett now in the picture, the Nets think they have what it takes to take over as the new Eastern champs.

    It's up to LeBron James and Co. to put that thought to rest. The Heat are on a mission to defend their title, and they won't let this Brooklyn team snatch it from them without a fight.

    This is a must-see battle for Eastern supremacy.

8. Los Angeles Lakers vs. Houston Rockets

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    Date: November 7

    Television: TNT 9:30 pm ET

    Location: Toyota Center, Houston


    After another summer of the 'Dwightmare,' Howard has chosen to leave L.A. and join the Houston Rockets, in case you hadn't already heard.

    The first time Dwight will meet up with his former team is early in the season when the Lake Show will pay a visit to the Launch Pad down in Houston. It's questionable whether Kobe Bryant will be back from his surgery, but he has already hinted that he is way ahead of schedule for his return, according to the Huffington Post.

    Drama seems to follow Howard everywhere he goes. TNT claims to know drama, which is probably why they will be airing this game. Coach Mike D'Antoni will try everything he can to prove that the Lakers are just fine without Howard, but he will have to do it on the road against a talented Rockets team.

7. New York Knicks vs. Brooklyn Nets

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    Date: December 5

    Television: TNT 7 pm ET

    Location: Barclays Center, Brooklyn


    When Jay-Z moved the Nets to BK, a New York rivalry was inevitable. The Nets and Knicks fight each year for the support of the New York fans.

    The rivalry this year will pose a new dilemma. Jason Kidd, who played for the Knicks last season, is now the head coach of the Nets. Kidd has a long history with the Nets' organization, but that was before when they were still in New Jersey. Now, the teams are on the same turf.

    Many wonder, myself included, whether Kidd has what it takes to be a head coach. He was always a smart player and he is a seasoned veteran, but he has not proven himself as a coach, not even as an assistant.

    It will be interesting to see how his team performs against his former team and newest rival.

6. Los Angeles Clippers vs. Los Angeles Lakers

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    Date: October 29, Opening Night

    Television: TNT 10:30 pm ET

    Location: Staples Center, Los Angeles (Lakers home game)


    Fans won't have to wait long for the first of four battles of L.A. The Lakers host the Clippers on opening night.

    The Clippers surpassed the Lakers last season as Los Angeles' team, and the Lakers can't be happy about that. The Lakers are one of the premier franchises in the league, while the Clippers have been a joke for the majority of their existence.

    It is still uncertain whether Kobe Bryant will take the floor or not opening night. The Lakers need him as soon as possible, especially if they want to take down Chris Paul's Clippers under new head coach Doc Rivers.

    The times are changing in L.A., but that doesn't mean that there won't be an incredible atmosphere in the Staples Center to start the year off right.

5. Indiana Pacers vs. Miami Heat

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    Date: December 18

    Television: ESPN 7 pm ET

    Location: American Airlines Arena, Miami


    Last year's Eastern Conference Finals were much closer than fans had anticipated. People expected the Miami Heat to breeze through the playoffs on their way to the Finals, as they did the first two rounds. Indiana, however, posed a much bigger threat.

    Paul George and the Pacers were one game away from shocking NBA fans around the world. They took the immortal Heat to seven games before running out of gas and falling just short of the NBA Finals.

    The rematch between these two teams looks to be an entertaining one. The Pacers arguably still have the best shot at keeping Miami from winning the East for a fourth straight year. Their only problem is that the Heat still have No. 6 on their team to always save the day.

4. Brooklyn Nets vs. Boston Celtics

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    Date: January 26

    Television: ESPN 6:30 pm ET

    Location: TD Garden, Boston


    After many years and one championship in Boston, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett no longer bleed green. Them two along with Jason Terry were shipped off to Brooklyn as the Celtics are trying to tear down their roster and rebuild.

    The Celtics won't be competing for anything this year other than the No. 1 draft pick, phenom Andrew Wiggins. Brooklyn has a chance to make a deep playoff run with a new star-studded roster.

    This game may not be all that close, but the return of KG and The Truth to the Garden is must-watch television. The Boston faithful may have some darker times ahead of them, but they will certainly welcome back their former stars with open arms.

3. Houston Rockets vs. Los Angeles Lakers

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    Date: February 19

    Television: ESPN 9:30 pm ET

    Location: Staples Center, Los Angeles


    At this point in the season, the Rockets will have already played the Lakers twice, but both times in Houston. This game will be Howard's first trip back to L.A. since Houston won the Dwight sweepstakes this summer.

    Dwight's one and only season in Los Angeles was a disaster. The Lakers barely snuck into the playoffs before getting obliterated in a four-game sweep in the first round against San Antonio.

    It was a season to forget in L.A., and this upcoming one may be even worse. The uncertainty floating around Kobe's injury and the Lakers' organization is unbearable for Laker fans, but one thing is for sure. Laker fans want nothing more than to beat down on Howard and his Houston Rockets.

    Howard is sure to arrive to a sea of boos in his return to Staples Center, and it won't be too fun for him unless the Rockets can keep the fans quiet with a decisive win.

2. Chicago Bulls vs. Miami Heat

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    Date: October 29, Opening Night

    Television: TNT 8 pm ET

    Location: American Airlines Arena, Miami


    As if fans weren't already antsy waiting for the start of the new NBA season, they just got a lot more anxious. Opening night features the defending champion Miami Heat hanging up their banner in front of their rival Bulls.

    The Heat ousted the Bulls in the Eastern Semis last season without really breaking a sweat. However, last season was just a test run for the Bulls, who were playing without their superstar Derrick Rose.

    Rose sat out the entire season after coming off of a devastating ACL injury. He'll be back this year, and Chicago fans are hoping he is the same player that won the MVP a few seasons ago.

    If Rose can return to form, the Bulls can reclaim their place as a powerhouse in the East. With tenacious defense under coach Tom Thibodeau and a superior playmaker in Rose, the Bulls are by far the greatest threat to the Heat's Eastern dominance.

    Fans who have long awaited Rose's return will get to see him play on the very first day of the season, taking on the defending champion Heat and the reigning MVP himself, LeBron James.

1. San Antonio Spurs vs. Miami Heat

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    Date: January 26

    Television: ABC 1 pm ET

    Location: American Airlines Arena, Miami


    The most anticipated game of the year, and not a big surprise, is the Finals rematch between the Spurs and Heat. The Spurs were seconds away from a championship until Ray Allen made the three-pointer that changed everything. The Heat won in seven to become back-to-back NBA champions and the Spurs walked away with nothing but the thought of what could have been.

    The Spurs were so close to the Larry O'Brien trophy that it is painful to even think about. They have to wait another full season before they can try again and redeem themselves.

    The rematch in Miami will be the talk of the NBA in the weeks leading up to the game. The Spurs return to the building where their hopes and dreams were crushed. They will have a chip on their shoulder after letting the championship slip through their fingers.

    You better save the date for this one, because the whole world will be watching on this fateful Sunday afternoon.