With Christmas Day games right around the corner, the NBA season is really starting to take form, and the contenders will separate themselves from the pretenders soon enough. As the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors face off against one another on December 25, there are also a number of other great games that will take place over the next four months or so, prior to the playoffs. Here are the 10 best matchups remaining on the NBA’s schedule, ranked.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers @ Golden State Warriors (December 25): What else can be said about this game? We’ve seen these two teams go straight at one another in the last three NBA Finals, and it wouldn’t shock anyone if they met again. Cleveland is 24-9 and 10-5 on the road, led by the great Lebron James, the King, who is playing the best ball of his career, which is saying a lot, averaging 28.4 points and 9.2 assists. He’ll be going head-to-head with Kevin Durant, who is averaging 26.3 points per game.
2. Houston Rockets @ Oklahoma City Thunder (December 25): James Harden is leading most MVP lists at this point in the year, and he’s gone for 51 points in two games in a row, as he’s helped get the Rockets to the best record in the league at 25-6. Russell Westbrook, the MVP from last year, is putting up 23.3 points per night, and he has some more star power with him this year: Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. This one should be great as Harden faces his former team.
3. Oklahoma City Thunder @ Los Angeles Lakers (January 3): The aforementioned Thunder are starting to play better and better as of late as their Big 3 gels, and by early January, they could be fully in gear for a dominant run. It’s going to be extremely fun to see Westbrook ferociously guard Lonzo Ball, the most talked about rookie (ever?), but the real headline is going to be George heading home, especially because many believe he’s going to don the purple and gold next season.
4. Cleveland Cavaliers @ Toronto Raptors (January 11): The Cavaliers are the favorite to take home the East crown again, but the Raptors might have something to say about that. Right now, Toronto is ahead of the Cavs in the standings, but they’ve failed to defeat Cleveland in the last two playoffs. DeMar Derozan is playing better than he has at any point since coming out of USC, and he showed that against the 76ers, dropping 45 points. He’ll look to do the same against James and Co.
5. Golden State Warriors @ Houston Rockets (January 20): The Warriors are the best team in the league, it’s nearly impossible to say otherwise, until someone is able to take them down on the big stage. This day might be Houston’s best chance to do so, and Chris Paul should be back in time. He’s expected to miss between 2-4 weeks. The Rockets beat the Warriors on Opening Night so you know the defending champs are going to be looking for a bit of revenge. Stephen Curry will likely be back for this one as well.
6. Cleveland Cavaliers @ San Antonio Spurs (January 23): Three days after the two best teams in the Western Conference play, the top team in the Eastern Conference will take on the third best organization out West: The San Antonio Spurs. Gregg Popovich’s crew is known for their stability, and at 22-11, they are competitive again. There are a ton of names to keep an eye on in this one, like Kevin Love and LaMarcus Aldridge, but all eyes should be (and will be) on King James and Kawhi Leonard.
7. Minnesota Timberwolves @ Chicago Bulls (February 9): We’ll see where the Bulls are at this point in the season, considering their lack of talent, but they are 7-3 in their last 10 games and are starting to play better since Nikola Mirotic’s return from injury. Minnesota is in fourth place, with a 19-13 record, and have won two games in a row. The reason this game will be circled on both teams calendar is because it’s Jimmy Butler’s return to Chicago for the first time since being traded this past offseason.
8. San Antonio Spurs @ Golden State Warriors (February 10): In the 2016-17 Western Conference Finals, the Spurs were up by 20+ points in Game 1, and it looked like they were going to go toe to toe with the mighty Warriors for the entire series. And then Leonard got hurt. All of a sudden, Golden State came back to win that game and swept the series. It’s not a secret the the Spurs want another shot at the Warriors, and if they get it, don’t sleep on them. Leonard can play with anyone in this league.
9. Cleveland Cavaliers @ Boston Celtics (February 11): We saw Kyrie Irving take on his former team in the first game of the year, as the Cavaliers held on for a close victory, but this time it’ll be in Boston and the atmosphere will be completely shifted to the other side. Irving and the Celtics are in first place in the East, and should be at or near the top when this game tips off. Lebron is going to give a little something extra for this one and there could be heavy playoff implications involved in this one.
10. Toronto Raptors @ Washington Wizards (March 2): Neither of these teams jump out at you right away because they have failed to win the Eastern Conference in recent years, but there will definitely be consequences in terms of postseason positioning in this game. Right now, the Raptors are 22-8 and are in second, while Washington is 17-15 and are tied for seventh. This matchup will produce two of the best backcourts in the league: John Wall and Bradley Beal versus Derozan and Kyle Lowry.
Photo Credit: The Source.