By Sekou Smith, NBA.com
Posted Jul 19 2011 1:13PM
The Finals rematch between the Miami Heat and reigning champion Dallas Mavericks on Christmas Day in Dallas is the ultimate gift for NBA lovers worldwide.
That game will mark the first time the Heat and Mavericks face each other since the Mavs wrapped things up in Game 6 of The Finals in June. They'll play for a second time on March 29, 2012 in Miami on TNT.
That first meeting is the highlight of a Christmas Day tripleheader that also includes Boston and New York at Madison Square Garden to start the day and the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center in the nightcap.
There are, however, plenty of other gifts on the 2011-12 NBA schedule, unveiled Tuesday afternoon, before and after those heavyweight Christmas Day clashes.
The Bulls and Mavericks kick off the season in Dallas on Nov. 1 in the front end of a doubleheader on TNT, followed by Western Conference finalists Oklahoma City christening the Los Angeles Lakers' Mike Brown era at Staples Center. Houston and new coach Kevin McHale open the season that night as well in Utah.
That opening night schedule sets the table for a monster, 13-deep slate of games on Nov. 2, including the Heat in New York against the Knicks. The Cavaliers, with two of the top four picks in the June Draft, play at Boston.
The first weekend of the season provides a Western Conference finals rematch between the Mavericks and Thunder Nov. 5 in Dallas. The Mavericks defeated the Thunder in five games, ending the upstart Thunder's dreams of making The Finals in just their second season as a playoff outfit under Scott Brooks.
The first shot at a rematch of the Eastern Conference finals doesn't come until much later when the Bulls and Heat meet in Miami as the opener of the Jan. 19 doubleheader on TNT. The Mavericks travel to Salt Lake City to face the Jazz in the second game that night.
Philadelphia plays at Atlanta and New Orleans faces the Los Angeles Clippers in the Thanksgiving night doubleheader on TNT.
Few days on the schedule offer a more power-packed lineup of games than Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Jan. 16.
The actions begins with the Bulls in Memphis to face the Grizzlies. Sacramento plays at the Knicks, the Rockets play the Bobcats in Charlotte, Portland plays at Philadelphia, Denver at Washington, Milwaukee at New Orleans, New Jersey at the Clippers, Toronto at the Hawks, the Thunder at the Celtics and the Mavericks and Lakers wrap things up that night in Los Angeles.
The regular season ends on April 18 with all 30 teams in action, highlighted by the Orlando Magic playing the Celtics in Boston, the 76ers finishing things up against the Heat in Miami, the Rockets and Mavericks battling in Dallas, the Lakers and Nuggets going in Denver, the Bulls and Nets in New Jersey, the Thunder and Suns in Phoenix and San Antonio facing the Kings in Sacramento.