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10 must-see Bulls games on the 2015-16 schedule

Mark your calendars: Sam Smith breaks down 10 must-watch games from the upcoming Bulls season

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By Sam Smith | 8.12.2015 | 6:00 p.m.

The Bulls start the 2015-16 season right where they left off, at home Oct. 27 against the Cleveland Cavaliers in one of the premier opening night games of the 2015-16 NBA season.

The Bulls, obviously, will be hoping for a better result than their late game meltdown that ended their season with a 4-2 conference semifinals loss.

The matchup with the Cavaliers is part of another anticipated opening night in the NBA with the defending champion Golden State Warriors hosting Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans, both games on TNT. The Warriors will be presented with their championship rings.

The Bulls then won’t see LeBron James and the Cavaliers, everyone’s Eastern Conference rivals, again until Jan. 23 in Cleveland on national ABC-TV. The Bulls play the Cavaliers four times, the last game April 9 in the United Center in what could be a game to determine the Central Division in the last week of the season. The Bulls also return from the week long All-Star break to open in Cleveland.

The Bulls will again play on Christmas Day, the NBA’s feature day of the regular season. They’ll play in Oklahoma City in the first of a back to back before heading for Dallas in a tough week with four games in six days, including home against Toronto and Indiana. The Bulls have 16 back to back sets, but 10 in the second half of the season. There is one four in five nights set, which the NBA has talked about removing. That one is in mid-January and includes a trip up to new Central Division rival Milwaukee. The Bulls also have several tough four games in six night sequences that include back to back on the road in Miami and Orlando and another in San Antonio and back home against improved Miami in March. The Bulls play the Heat four times, all after mid-January.

The Bulls also are in Detroit Jan. 18 for the Martin Luther King Jr. Day slate of games.

The Bulls are scheduled for 32 national TV games on ABC, TNT, ESPN and NBA-TV. The Bulls, Warriors and Clippers will each play 10 TNT games, the most of any teams. The Bulls are one of three teams with the maximum allowed number of appearances on TNT and NBA-TV.

This season’s schedule varies from the typical Bulls schedule as there are three long road trips instead of the usual two for the November circus and February ice show. The Bulls will be on the road seven of nine games in late March to accommodate the NCAA tournament games. Thus the Bulls this season will have a four-game road trip over 10 days in November, seven games over 12 days in late January and February and then they close the season with eight of their last 12 games on the road. It’s the sort of schedule the Bulls probably need to start fast with an unusually difficult second half of the season.

The Bulls kick off the new ABC Saturday night schedule Jan 23 in Cleveland with ABC adding Saturday night coverage to Sunday games. The NBA with a wink has scheduled new Spur LaMarcus Aldridge returning to Portland and DeAndre Jordan and the Clippers visiting Dallas November 11 after Jordan's summer flirtation with the Mavericks in a Nov. 11 TV doubleheader.

Here’s a look at the top 10 Bulls games of the season:

Oct. 27, Cavaliers in Chicago

What happens if David Blatt starts 0-1? It’s the first statement game of the season with what should be the healthiest Bulls team to open a season since 2011. LeBron also should have his guys at full strength with Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving. Opening games generally don’t mean all that much, but as the teams play just four times and the Cavs humiliated the Bulls to close the 2015 playoffs, the Bulls should be motivated enough to show whether they can be serious contenders. And it’s new coach Fred Hoiberg’s first real NBA game. Game ball, anyone?


Dec. 25, Christmas in Oklahoma City

The NBA still has faith in the Bulls as the league generally features its contenders and stars in its highlight regular season day when the NBA takes over TV. The Thunder, assuming Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka are healthy, should compete for the Western Conference title with slick additions like center Enes Kanter. Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook, who train together in the summer, are an attraction of their own as two of the fastest players in the NBA. The Thunder is in the United Center Nov. 5 in the sixth game of the season as well for a second big early season home game after the opener against the Cavaliers.


Nov. 20, Warriors in Oakland

The Bulls were one of two teams to win in Oakland last regular season. The Warriors went on to win the title under first year coach and former Bull Steve Kerr and feature MVP Stephen Curry. It’s another prime early season matchup for top backcourt with Curry and Klay Thompson against Rose and Jimmy Butler, all having been All-Stars. The Warriors are in the United Center Jan. 20.


Feb. 21, Lakers in Chicago

It could be Kobe Bryant’s final game in Chicago. The Lakers even with high lottery picks from the last two seasons, including Ohio State’s DeAngelo Russell, aren’t expected to be even close to the playoffs. And many are speculating Bryant, coming off three seasons of injuries, will not even make it this deep into the season. But he remains one of the most popular, if controversial, players in the NBA and has intimated it is possible if he has a strong season that he might go year to year after this season. The Bulls a few weeks earlier open their ice show trip with a rare Lakers/Clippers double with five days in Los Angeles. That doesn’t often make for rested players.


Nov. 30, Spurs in Chicago

Last season for Tim Duncan? For Manu Ginobili? New home for LeMarcus Aldridge and David West. The Bulls and Michael Jordan were the story of the decade through 1998. Since then with some Lakers, Heat and Celtics exceptions, it’s been the Spurs, the enduring franchise model of the last two decades. They made the big addition of the offseason with Aldridge and the big surprise with West forfeiting about $10 million to play for them. He obviously believes they can win a title. Gregg Popovich also shows few signs of leaving and this run could go on for another decade the way they cleverly retool. Not everyone says they want to watch them, but people will ask you years later if you saw them.


April 3, Bucks in Milwaukee

It’s been awhile since any game with the Bucks made a highlight list. But the Bucks gave the Bulls a tough first round playoff series and added Greg Monroe in the offseason after he rejected the Knicks and Lakers. That could be the story of free agency. The Bucks with their youth, size and athleticism believe they can win the Central Division over favorites like the Bulls, Cavaliers, and Pacers. This one coming down the stretch of the season could be vital for playoff positioning and is the second of a back to back for the Bulls.


Dec. 10, Clippers in Chicago

Another Western Conference power that believes it’s their time. Or has to be. The Clippers carried off the bizarre story of the summer by rerecruiting DeAndre Jordan. Chris Paul promises not to hurt his feelings anymore. The Clippers also added some bench as the new wild bunch of the NBA with Lance Stephenson. They’re also said not to be done and could make a move with Jamal Crawford given a growing backlog at shooting guard. This is a national TNT game with the Bulls on the second of a back to back after returning from Boston and a national ESPN game. The networks are high on Rose/Butler.


Dec 14, Philadelphia in Chicago

No one really wants to see the 76ers as they remain in the longest dumping mode in league history. But it’s a chance to see No. 3 draft pick and Chicagoan Jahlil Okafor, who some project as the new low post hope of the NBA and a top Rookie of the Year candidate. The Bulls see No. 1 overall pick Karl-Anthony Towns and Minnesota early in November at home. Watch also for Denver in the United Center Dec. 2 and rookie Emmanuel Mudiay, another top rookie choice.


Dec. 12, New Orleans in Chicago

It’s a chance to see an early favorite for MVP in Chicagoan Anthony Davis. The gifted big man will be the focus of the uptempo offense of new coach Alvin Gentry and could be a new version of the fast paced Suns where Gentry was an assistant to Mike D’Antoni and later head coach. Davis has a chance with good health to put up historic numbers. Gentry is one of the top new coaches to make a difference along with Scott Skiles in Orlando. The Magic and Skiles are in the United Center Nov. 1 with a Magic team that many believe will be an Eastern surprise and a young backcourt of Elfrid Payton and Victor Oladipo that gave the Bulls fits last season..


Jan. 25, Miami in Chicago

It’s the first meeting of the season for the Bulls with the Heat, whom some predict will be a major contender in the Eastern Conference and also challenge the Cavaliers. There are a lot of what ifs for them with Dwyane Wade’s health and Luol Deng’s effectiveness. But they retained Goran Dragic and we’ll see whether Hassan Whiteside can do that for an entire season. It is the first of four games in less than three months against Miami with the fourth coming in Miami in that closing kick with seven road games in nine days and also a TNT game. The Bulls have the Grizzlies, Heat and Cavs every other day April 3, 5 and 7 all on national TV with the Cavs April 9 on ABC in the final weekend of the regular season. Will it be for No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference? Here we go.


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