Back in December, ahead of the start of the 2020-21 season, the NBA took the rare step of only releasing half of the schedule. With the coronavirus pandemic still a major issue across the country, the league wanted to give itself some flexibility in the event that games needed to be postponed.
That proved to be a wise decision, as over two dozen games so far have had to be rescheduled due to various COVID-19 related matters. Now, as the All-Star break and the end of the first half of the season draws near, the league has officially announced the second half of the schedule.
It will run from March 10-May 16, with the play-in tournament set for May 18-21. From there, the playoffs will run until July 22 at the latest. Here’s a look at 10 must-watch games down the stretch:
There was a little bit of drama surrounding the announcement of the All-Star Game starters, with Luka Doncic earning the nod over Damian Lillard by a tiebreaker. They’ve handled it gracefully, but it should still be interesting to see their first head-to-head matchup after the event. And even if there isn’t any added drama, it’s always fun watching those two stars do their thing.
This game definitely wouldn’t have been on the list at the start of the season, but with the way things are going, it’s all of a sudden a potential Finals preview. The Jazz have stunned everyone by opening up a multi-game lead at the top of the Western Conference, while the Nets added James Harden and are one of the best offensive units of all-time.
The MVP race is really starting to heat up as we reach the mid-way point of the season, and two of the leading candidates are Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic. Unfortunately, the first meeting between these teams was marred by a strange COVID-19 situation, so they still haven’t met on the court. But when they finally do, we’ll all be watching.
Of course, this game had to be on the list. The season hasn’t quite gone to plan for either of these teams due to injuries, but they’re still near the top of the Western Conference standings. Everyone should be healthy for this early-April showdown, which could have a significant impact on the playoff race.
There are only two teams in the NBA right now that are in the top-eight in the league in offensive rating, defensive rating and net rating. They are, you guessed it, the Jazz and Suns. No one would have predicted that coming into the season, but these two teams have been dynamite.
April 15: Boston Celtics vs. Los Angeles Lakers
Every Celtics-Lakers matchup is must-see TV, but especially when they have so much star power between them. Plus, there’s extra intrigue with the way the Celtics have fallen apart. Will they be back on track for this big test in April, or will they be fighting for a playoff spot?
This is another matchup that definitely wouldn’t have made the cut prior to the season, but the unexpected nature of sports is a big part of why we love them so much. LaMelo Ball and Zach LaVine have been two of the most entertaining players to watch this season, and have their clubs in a position to potentially end their playoff droughts.
The Bucks have been good this year, but not quite as dominant as expected. And now they have a new power to contend with in the East: the Nets. Their first meeting was a thriller, and there’s little reason to expect anything different when they meet again in early May. Hopefully, this will serve as a playoff preview.
There’s a chance this game doesn’t mean too much at this point, but if the standings remain similar to how they are now it will have massive playoff implications. And when Zion Williamson and Steph Curry are going to be involved, either way, it deserves a spot on this list.
May 16: Every team in action
There are busy nights on the NBA calendar that sometimes feature a dozen games or so, but having every team in action on the same day is extremely rare. That’s what we’ll get on the last day of the regular season, however, and it’s going to be fascinating to see how that plays out, especially with playoff spots and/or seeding on the line.