NBA

The 10 essential matches of the 2022-23 season

ADVERTISEMENT

Schedule the day! It is finally here.

The NBA released its schedule on Wednesday, and the Nuggets, expected to be one of many Western Conference contenders, had no shortage of nationally televised games.

ADVERTISEMENT

The NBA consecutively rewarded reigning MVP Nikola Jokic with eight ESPN games, seven TNT games, one ABC game and 12 NBA TV games. That’s 28 nationally televised games in total. Oh, and Jamal Murray’s back. No more flirting with a comeback. After a year and a half, Murray’s diabolical two-step with Jokic will once again confuse opposing defenses.

One of the showpiece matchups, as the Denver Post first reports, will be a Christmas Day showdown against the Phoenix Suns in Denver. Forget the outcome of the game for a single second. If the Nuggets can arrive on Dec. 25 healthy, consider that a win.

The 82-match schedule is filled with intriguing clashes. Here are the 10 most anticipated games on Denver’s schedule.

10. vs. Boston on Jan. 1

Last season, the Celtics came to Denver and knocked out the Nuggets in a 20-point win in March. In a nutshell, it underscored the gap between the Nuggets and the Celtics, who eventually reached the final. The effort was so lackluster that Celtics fans swarmed Ball Arena, but took it over with “MVP” chants for their two stars, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Now healthy, the Nuggets can redeem themselves from that terrible performance. Plus, given the shrewd additions of Calvin Booth this offseason, the Nuggets are better equipped to handle Boston’s aforementioned wings with defensive stoppers Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Bruce Brown.

9. vs. Memphis on Dec. 20

The Grizzlies gave the Nuggets trouble last season, going 3-1 against Denver. In the three games he played, Ja Morant cooked the Nuggets backcourt for more than 27 points per game. Morant is viewing by appointment. His amazing athleticism is a test for any defense. Add to that the plays Memphis has around it, and Denver will face a tall order. The two teams are on the same trajectory in the West. It’s a safe bet that a playoff showdown isn’t too far down the road.

8. vs. New Orleans on Jan. 31

Does anyone need a refresher on the masterpiece Sir Nikola wrote (yes, a Sir after that game) against the Pelicans on March 6? Jokic scored 30 of his 46 points throughout the fourth quarter and overtime, dictating and controlling everything about the outcome of this contest. He averaged 34.8 points in four outings against the Pelicans, shooting a princely 68.9 percent from the field. Now add a healthy Zion Williamson? It’s tastier than a City Park donut in New Orleans.

7. vs. Clippers on Jan. 5

Ever since Denver burst the Clippers’ bubble in Orlando, there’s been a little extra juice between these two. Denver went 3-1 against Los Angeles last season, but without Kawhi Leonard and Paul George in the four-game roster. The first three are separated by a total of seven points. Consider last season the preamble. Now that both teams are healthy, could we watch a preview of the Western Conference Finals? (Honourable mention: Oct. 26 against the Lakers will be spicy, if for no other reason than LeBron’s visits to Denver are, we assume, down. There’s also a non-zero chance that Michael Malone is still simmering after giving up the regular-season finale to the Lakers, when Malik Monk and Austin Reaves torched Denver for 72 points).

6. vs. Philadelphia on March 27

Funny thing is, the media (*raises hand*) made this showdown bigger than it actually is. Sure, it’s fun to watch basketball’s two best big men go head-to-head on the court, but it’d be so much more intriguing if they had, you know, an ounce of disdain for each other. . Jokic has regularly praised Joel Embiid, while the 76ers star center has openly complimented the two-time MVP. Plus, there’s always the possibility that Bones Hyland will upstage them both, like he did in his emotional return to Philadelphia last season.

5. vs. Miami Dec. 30

Did someone say disdain? As in low kicks and shoulder shivers, hallway posturing and incendiary Twitter accounts? Markieff Morris is back in Denver! Let the boos rain down like the deluge that has drowned Denver for the past few days. Here’s to wondering how Morris felt when drafting the Heat from, wait for it, Nikola Jovic, a big rookie man from Serbia.

4. vs. Golden State on Feb. 2

It’s far too early to consider this a rivalry. The Nuggets were the hurdles the Warriors cleared last season — in five games — to advance through the NBA playoffs. Of course, it could be different with a healthy Murray and Michael Porter Jr.. The Nuggets could have the shot at facing Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Jordan Poole, and their theoretically improved defense could offer far more resistance than last April. But until another team eliminates them, the Warriors dynasty still reigns.

ADVERTISEMENT