Scoping Out The Competition: The NBA’s Best Rivalries
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The NBA officially released its 2019-2020 regular season schedule on Monday and its kicks off by kicking up some old dirt.
Opening Night 2019 headlines the old-school Western Conference rivalry of the Los Angeles Lakers versus their stadium-mates the Clippers, followed the next night by a match between their equally testy Eastern Conference counterparts, the Philadelphia 76ers and the Boston Celtics.
Storied and better-left-forgotten, beloved and dreaded, these matchups often result in hardwood classics, and a bout between either is not to be missed. Both sets of opponents tend to keep their unwieldy flames for one another burning at a roar, however this summer’s seismic free agency period presents new dynamics for each to grapple with. The season is still two months on the horizon, however, rosters seem to be set, and the beef can only cook for so long.
Philadelphia 76ers vs Boston Celtics
When they play:
Oct. 23, 2019 at 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 12, 2019 at 8 p.m.
Jan. 9, 2020 at 7 p.m.
Feb. 1, 2020 at 8:30 p.m.
The viscous sludge of the aftermath of a Philadelphia and Boston matchup coats and sticks to the fans and players involved, forever rendering them inseparable. Perhaps no two other teams in the league, let alone the Eastern Conference, hold such disdain for each other, and as big-man Al Horford crosses enemy lines, so there is no telling how nasty this could get.
Generally, since the rivalry was reignited in the 76ers breakout 51-win 2017-2018 season, the Celtics have had their number. The Sixers have won a measly three out of their last 20 matches with the Celtics, celebrating the last one, with aJimmy Butler game winner and all, like they had just successfully usurped an oppressive monarch. However, with the current outlook, that win may have been a symbolic turning of the tides.
The Celtics stagnated this summer, however, given their circumstances, this is a victory. Obtaining point guard Kemba Walker was a key move in the departure of Kyrie Irving; maligned by fans and seemingly his teammates alike. Also important to note is Walker’s sterling record against the 76ers, averaging 37 points per game in their four matchups last season, also dropping his career high of 60 points on them in December. If there’s a worthy addition to this tale, its Kemba Walker.
Horford is where the blood is, however. The Sixers lost their Celtics-killer in Butler, however, adding Horford to an already oversized squad will allow them to dominate the paint against the significantly smaller Celtics. Enes Kanter will have to play the best defense of his life to stave off the combination of the man he replaced and Joel Embiid.
The basketball media industrial complex will have the time of their lives with this one, and so will the teams involved, along with the generations of competition they are defending.
LA Lakers vs LA Clippers
When they play:
Oct. 22, 2019 at 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 25, 2019 at 5 p.m.
Jan. 28, 2020 at 7 p.m.
March 8, 2020 at 12:30 p.m.
A far more intimate meeting, yet fresher and all the more unknown. The Lakers and Clippers have bad blood for obvious reasons; they share a city, and a building, and sometimes (yeah, you) they share a fanbase. In a sense, it’s like watching two children fighting for their parent’s affection: it’s base, it’s mean, and it’s got smoke billowing 30 feet into the air.
Last season, the Lakers, with newly signed LeBron James, significantly underperformed, even under the circumstances of James’s injury. Trading away half of that crew in the name of Anthony Davis looks to be their way to redemption. Both James and Davis have the full package and can score from nearly anywhere on the floor, and the sight of them in the same color uniform begets no doubters.
The Clippers however, over-performed. With no star player after trading away Tobias Harris to the Sixers, the Clippers still made the playoffs, and even ripped off a game against the reigning champions. Lou Williams repeat wins the Sixth Man of the Year Award, Kawhi Leonard signs and brings Paul George with him, and all the sudden, Danilo Gallanari being the only lost piece of note, the LA Clippers are title contenders.
For all of the Lakers fans eagerly anticipating Leonard’s arrival, and George’s the summer before that, a win against this team runs deeper than territory. Is there an unfounded arrogance to playing across the hall from the king and his king of franchises? With a ring on his finger and a star player willing to force himself out of a place he called home only a few months ago just to play with him, it’s unlikely Leonard thinks so.