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BSP NBA First-Half Games to Watch Guide

Nikola Jokic and LeBron James
Denver Nuggets centre Nikola Jokic collides with Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James in the second half of Game 4 of the NBA basketball Western Conference Final series Monday, May 22, 2023, in Los Angeles. (Ashley Landis/AP Photo)

Last week, the NBA released the schedule for all 30 teams, including the dates and design for the in-season tournament. With over 2,460 possible games to watch, how does one decide which ones to prioritize? Well, luckily, our writers have you covered because they have narrowed it down even further to focusing only on the games happening before the All-Star break. 


Later in the season, our staff will examine the remaining games, factoring in all the first-half standings, statistics, and storylines so far for a game’s guide to the second half. 


Here’s our outlook on the first half of the 2023-2024 NBA schedule, featuring all the games you should not miss.


Contributing to the games guide are writers Matt Strout, Jeremy Gretzer, Stacey Cumming, Brian Ramos, Andy Diederich, and Back Sports Page’s newest basketball writer Michael Kobrinsky.

Opening Night: Phoenix Suns at Golden State Warriors on Oct. 24, 2023.

What’s not to be excited about this game? Star power, new-look lineups, and players competing against their former teams. It has everything besides James Harden. Oh, did I mention that Chris Paul is now a member of the Golden State Warriors? Yeah, that’s right. It’s possible that Paul touches every relevant storyline imaginable in this game. The actual basketball will be good, too. The Warriors will be healthy and revamped, while the Phoenix Suns get to showcase its three-headed monster of Kevin Durant, Bradley Beal, and Devin Booker


There are some subplots I care about, too. How will Frank Vogel handle this Suns team? And what will Jonathan Kuminga’s playing time look like to start the season? Looking forward to this one. Tipoff is at 10 p.m. EDT at the Chase Center. 


-Matt Strout


Superstars Clash in LA: Phoenix Suns at Los Angeles Lakers on Oct. 26, 2023.

A powerhouse contest between two future hall-of-famers is just around the corner. LeBron James and Kevin Durant have not battled on the hardwood since Christmas Day in 2018. NBA fanatics will want to tune in to see these two all-time greats square off. Various Injuries to both superstars prevented this legendary matchup for five seasons, including the ankle injury Durant suffered when warming up for Phoenix last season.


The bright lights of Los Angeles prime the energy and fuel the excitement for this game. In just the second game of the season for both squads, the Suns travel to LA to set up a star-studded game that includes Booker, Beal, and Anthony Davis with Durant and James. After a resurgent second half last season, the Lakers look to take down a Phoenix squad that many see as a championship contender in the Western Conference.


NBA fans should circle this game on their calendars to watch two of the best scorers in NBA history go head-to-head. The game will be nationally televised on TNT, and tip-off is scheduled for 10:00 p.m. EDT.


-Michael Kobrinsky


Conference Finals Rematch: Miami Heat at Boston Celtics on Oct. 27, 2023:

The chance at revenge for the Boston Celtics will be their home opener on October 27 as they host the Miami Heat, the underdog team who handed the Celtics an “L” in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals after clawing their way back from a 0-3 deficit. This refueled rivalry will be a statement to start off the NBA Season. These two teams have met in three of the last four conference finals and will be fighting for the edge if they meet again this post-season.


The Celtics made some moves in the offseason, most notably trading Marcus Smart in exchange for 7 foot 3 inch Kristaps Porziņģis. If he can stay healthy, this addition brings height and strength onto the court for the Celtics and could give them the extra oomph needed to take on their Southeast rivals.


The Heat, meanwhile, have had a decent offseason, signing Thomas Bryant and re-signing Kevin Love. The most anticipated and watched trade rumor and question has been, “Will Damian Lillard join the Heat?” They are the obvious frontrunners for the Portland Trailblazer’s star; however, no agreement has been able to be made. If Lillard makes his way to Miami, the possibility of them overtaking the Eastern Conference and the Celtics (again) has skyrocketed.


-Stacey Cumming


Haunted Hardwood: New York Knicks at Cleveland Cavaliers on Oct. 31, 2023.

On the spookiest day of the year, two beasts of the East will face off in their first matchup since they met in the first round of last season’s playoffs. The New York Knicks made haste of the Cleveland Cavaliers in 5 games, using both classic New York bully ball and a couple of Jalen Brunson masterclasses to propel them to the conference semifinals easily. Other than some additions for the Cavs, both teams will be running this season back with pretty much the same squad. 


This matchup should be a good litmus test to answer some pressing questions for both teams: Do the Knicks have staying power in the Eastern Conference? Will the Cavs live up to expectations, or will the lights be too bright once again? Halloween in Cleveland should be a good one, no matter what.


-Andy Diederich 


Meeting at the Mecca: Phoenix Suns at New York Knicks on Nov. 26, 2023.

This definitely will be one of the more underrated great games of the NBA season. Each team is playoff and even championship contenders in their own way. In terms of roster construction, this matchup almost seems like David vs. Goliath. The Suns went all-in with their roster and acquired Durant last trade deadline and acquired Beal this off-season. Those two to pair along with superstar Booker, might be the best big three in basketball. 


On the opposite end, the Knicks continue to just build and develop off their best season since 2013. Some of their roster is still guys they drafted, such as RJ Barrett, Immanuel Quickley, Mitchell Robinson, and Quentin Grimes. The only offseason acquisition they had was signing Donte DiVincenzo. The Knicks look to continue their success by running it back until they can finally land their star player. At the same time, the Suns are clearly in win-now mode because of their new star-studded and dominant starting five. 


-Brian Ramos


The Dillon Brooks Showcase: Grizzlies at Rockets on Dec. 13, and Rockets at Grizzlies on Dec. 15, 2023.

Revenge games always have an extra flavor, and for Dillon Brooks, this back-to-back set against the Memphis Grizzlies is circled on his calendar. One game at home, the following game at Memphis. Brooks, who felt the sting of the Grizzlies’ very public disinterest in re-signing him, will be on a mission. The controversy surrounding his playoff performance and his subsequent handling is still fresh in his memory. Memphis’ GM, Zach Kleiman, dropped enough hints pointing towards Brooks’ behavior, further fueling this narrative.

Aside from this, Brooks isn’t just the only storyline for Houston’s opponent. The Grizzlies will be without their star Ja Morant due to a 25-game suspension. Luckily, Kleiman and his front office took advantage of this issue in the off-season. First, they acquired former Boston Celtic and 2022 Defensive Player Of The Year (DPOY) Marcus Smart. Second, they signed veteran guard Derrick Rose and extended guard Desmond Bane to a five-year deal worth $207 million. Don’t forget Jaren Jackson Jr., who won the following year’s DPOY, and veteran rim protector Steven Adams. They are still arguably title contenders and are believed to be better this season, especially when Morant gets back on December 19th. Even with Morant out during these games, the Rockets still have their work cut out for them.

The subplot featuring Josh Christopher adds more depth to these matchups. Christopher, having moved from the Rockets to the Grizzlies, shares a strong camaraderie with the Rockets’ young core, especially Jalen Green and Kevin Porter Jr. On-court reunions always pack emotions, and this will be no exception.


-Jeremy Gretzer


(excerpt from Jeremy Gretzer’s ‘Four Key Matchups To Watch For The Houston Rockets’ article: Read the full piece here)

Best of the Christmas Day Games: Golden State Warriors at Denver Nuggets on Dec. 25, 2023

The NBA did a great job with scheduling the Christmas games for this upcoming season. All of the Christmas games this season will be fantastic and must-watch. However, the Christmas game that will be the best is the Golden State Warriors and the Denver Nuggets. This game has a potential Western Conference Finals matchup written all over it. The Warriors have one of the best starting lineups in all of basketball with one of the best point guards of all time in Stephen Curry, another great shooter in Klay Thompson, a solid two-way player in Andrew Wiggins, and the defensive anchor and leader of the team in Draymond Green. They also made the big acquisition in acquiring another future hall-of-famer in, Chris Paul, to be the sixth man. The Warriors are also one of the best shooting teams in the league.


On the other hand, the Nuggets are more of an interior team with Aaron Gordon and a two-time MVP who is arguably the best player in the league, Nikola Jokic. The defending NBA champions could be the next NBA dynasty. They did lose Bruce Brown in free agency, and it will be interesting to see who steps up for them, whether it is Christian Braun and/or Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.


-Brian Ramos


Rivalry Week: Los Angeles Lakers at Golden State Warriors on Jan. 27, 2024.

Rivals week this upcoming NBA season will be highlighted by a matchup of the Golden State Warriors and the Los Angeles Lakers on January 27th. This will be a can’t-miss rematch of last year’s Western Conference Semifinals, where Lebron James and Anthony Davis proved victorious over Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. It was the most-watched semifinals in 27 years, and this upcoming game will be a potential preview for NBA fans of what next year’s playoffs could look like. This will mark the first of four Warriors-Lakers matchups in the regular season, with predictably more to come in the postseason. 


The Lakers have retained key players through the offseason, with D’Angelo Russell and Austin Reaves, and picked up some strong support in players like Gabe Vincent, Taurean Prince, and more. While the Warriors have traded and lost some of the players known to shine in the playoffs, like Jordan Poole and Donte DiVincenzo, they have added Chris Paul, among others, and secured a new General Manager, Mike Dunleavy Jr., to their team. This will be a pivotal game for the Western Conference to see where two of the top teams from last year stand now after the offseason shuffling.


-Stacey Cumming


Familiar Faces: Memphis Grizzlies at Boston Celtics on Feb. 4th, 2024.

It’s a good basketball game, no doubt, but this will have sentimental appeal for a lot of the people buying tickets and tuning in. Marcus Smart returns to play his former team seven months after he was traded. The Celtics will see him up close in the middle of November when they meet in Memphis. But the emotions will surely be high in Boston that night. Smart spent his first nine seasons in Boston. His career has been well-dissected already this offseason, so the question remaining is what will the Celtics’ identity without Smart’s hustle be at this stage in the season. 


It could also be a good measuring stick for both teams as they approach the All-Star break. At that point, Morant will be comfortably back in the lineup after his suspension, and the Celtics will have had time to get new additions acclimated. This is a sneaky pick for a finals matchup. Early February could be a tune-up for it. 


-Matt Strout



Matt Strout is an Editor for Back Sports Page. Matt studied Journalism and Sociology at Temple University for four years and graduated in May of 2022. While there, Matt wrote for multiple student and professional publications covering sports and the City of Philadelphia. Matt is originally from Maine and now resides in California. He has written content primarily for the NBA and PGA Tour. You can catch Matt frequently as a guest on the “Cut The Nets” podcast featured on the Back Sports Page network. When Matt is not writing, he enjoys cooking and playing golf. Follow Matt’s social media on Twitter @TheRealStrout or Instagram @matt_strout96 

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