On Friday, the NBA released the schedule for the first half of the 2020-21 season. It’s not actually half of the games, but just the schedule up until the All-Star break, which is always past the halfway mark.
Also, there’s no All-Star Game this year. Just a break. In the NBA’s defense, we can all use a break.
Anyway, we now know what the first 37 games of the year will be for the Warriors, barring unpredictable scheduling obstacles that ... uhh ... feel rather predictable, actually. The Warriors only play 22 of the league’s teams in the first half, so if you’re eager to watch the Atlanta Hawks, Houston Rockets, Memphis Grizzlies, New Orleans Pelicans, Oklahoma City Thunder, Philadelphia 76ers, or Washington Wizards, might I suggest a League Pass subscription.
I’m going to let you in on a dirty little secret: I’m excited for all 37 games. Like, really excited for all 37 games. That they’re right around the corner is making me tremendously happy, even if I have a lot of reservations about the season starting in the midst of the lowest moment in the pandemic. But that’s a different article for a different day (how about Tuesday?).
While I’m giddy about each of the 37 games currently on the calendar, some will always stand out more than others. Here are my top five:
5. February 4 — @ Dallas Mavericks
I’ll admit to a tiny bit of bias with this one. We’ve all been stuck at home during the pandemic, searching for little bright spots that make a day feel special and not like the 200 or so that preceded it.
Feb. 4 is my birthday. It’s unlikely that I’ll be able to do anything particularly eventful, but at least I can watch the Warriors.
Beyond that, it’s an electrifying matchup. We haven’t seen Steph Curry vs. Luka Dončić since Luka Dončić became LUKA DONČIĆ. And Curry vs. Dončić is utterly thrilling; they may have different body types, different strengths and weaknesses, and different athletic traits, but in many ways the two stars are remarkably similar. They each play with type of in-control playground flair that makes you smile without realizing it; they’re both happy to pull up and shoot from anywhere on the court, no matter how far away; they both do things that make you think for a split second that they’re reckless, only to realize they’re playing 3D chess in space while you’re playing checkers on a glitchy app on your iPhone 4.
Put them both on the court and you’ll get more highlights than an All-Star Game.
4. Jan. 6 & 8 — vs. Los Angeles Clippers
I’m cheating a little bit and doing two games here. In the pursuit of limiting potential coronavirus spread, the NBA is scheduling a lot of situations where two teams play each other twice consecutively, without travel. In the first half of the season the Warriors have four such instances where they play the same team at the same arena in consecutive games.
One such occasion comes in early January against the Clippers. The Clipps may have disappointed in the 2020 playoffs, but they’re still an immensely talented team, and very much in title contention. That means they’re a great barometer for the Dubs.
It’s not the first time that Golden State will have faced a contender, but there’s something special about the playoff-like vibes of playing the same good team in back-to-back games. It really provides an opportunity to make adjustments, and also for the law of averages to kick in and trends to become more meaningful.
If the Warriors look good early in the season, this will be the first true test to see how good they can be.
3. Dec. 25 — @ Milwaukee Bucks
Christmas games are always a special affair, and while Christmas won’t be the same this year, you could argue that we need the happiness of good basketball on the holiday more than ever.
It’s the Dubs’ second game of the season. It’s Steph Curry and Giannis Antetokounmpo hug watch. It’s Curry being defended by Jrue Holiday and Antetokounmpo being defended by Draymond Green and Andrew Wiggins trying to prove himself against Khris Middleton. There’s a lot to be excited about here.
2. Jan. 18 — @ Los Angeles Lakers
The Warriors get their first taste of the defending champs on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which has become nearly as big of a basketball day as Christmas.
Watching Steph Curry and LeBron James — arguably the two defining stars of this decade of basketball — square off is always a joy. Watching James and Draymond Green battle is nothing short of a treat.
There’s a lot of love, respect, and friendship between James and the Warriors All-Stars, but there’s also a lot of intensity. There’s no one the Warriors would rather beat, and no one James would rather take down. If Golden State is anything resembling the team that made the NBA Finals five years in a row, then Warriors vs. Lakers is probably the most fun matchup you can make in the NBA this year.
1. Dec. 22 — @ Brooklyn Nets
There are a lot of compelling basketball reasons to adore this game. It’s a dazzling point guard matchup, pitting Steph Curry against Kyrie Irving. It’s Kevin Durant’s first game against the Warriors since leaving them in free agency. It’s Durant’s first game since tearing his Achilles, and we’ll all want to see how he looks. It’s the Warriors first game in this new era, where some people think they’ll be competing for home court advantage, and others think they’re in the bottom of the West. It’s the coaching debut of Steve Nash, with Mike D’Antoni and Amar’e Stoudemire on the bench alongside him. Hell, it’s the first basketball game of the season, for the entire league!
Those are all good reasons. Really good reasons.
But for me it’s about this: it will be the Warriors first game in 287 days. It will be Steph Curry’s first game in 292 days. It will be the first Warriors game where they have realistic dreams of contending in 419 days.
It can’t come soon enough.