The intercity battle between the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers is by far the most anticipated game on the NBA schedule. On Friday, it was reported that the league had unsurprisingly decided to match the two teams up on Christmas, its marquee regular-season date. But according to Shams Charania of The Athletic, that won't be the first time that the two potential juggernauts face off.
The Lakers and Clippers are expected to play on opening night, which will reportedly be on Tuesday, Oct. 22. If that ends up being the case, it would be a surprising change for the league. While the NBA always uses opening night as a chance to showcase some of its best teams, certain games are usually reserved for Christmas. That is especially true of teams like that Lakers and Clippers that underwent major changes in the offseason.
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But as division rivals, the Lakers and Clippers will play one another four times during the season. From a scheduling perspective, that makes it difficult to wait two months into the season before letting them play, especially given their conflicting travel schedules. The Lakers and Clippers share an arena, so when one team is at home, the other is often on the road. In that sense, putting this game on opening night solves the headache of travel concerns. If Paul George misses the start of the season while recovering from shoulder surgery, that would also add a layer of intrigue to their Christmas rematch.
The other game expected to be played on opening night is a battle of the past against the future. Last season's champions, the Toronto Raptors, are reportedly playing against the New Orleans Pelicans and their No. 1 overall pick, Zion Williamson. The defending champion plays on opening night almost every year, but having them play against the No. 1 overall pick is an interesting wrinkle. It allows him to watch the Raptors receive their championship rings in person, which should serve as a strong motivator moving forward.
The Lakers and the Clippers are the two teams fans are most excited to see this season. Williamson is one of the most popular rookies in NBA history. Toss in the defending champions, and opening night figures to be an incredible night of basketball.