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Wednesday August 19, 2009 3:30 PM

Must-See Matchups

Previewing ten can't-miss games for the upcoming 2009-10 season

Jason Friedman
Rockets.com Staff Writer

Houston - It’s early August, which means we’ve officially reached the slowest part of the NBA offseason. Long gone is the draft. So, too, is Summer League. And even the annual storm that is free agency has been downgraded to little more than a drizzle at this point. Needless to say, for NBA fans at least, these truly are the dog days of summer.

Some of us try to cope with the downtime by catching up on all the things we miss while satisfying our gluttonous basketball jones during the meat of the hoops schedule. Heck, I’ve already powered through countless books and all eight combined seasons of Arrested Development and Lost just in the last month alone. Others engage in more mindless and mundane pursuits (otherwise known as baseball).

Then there are those who are so supremely undone by this lull in the calendar that they temporarily lose their minds completely. Symptoms of this bizarre pattern of behavior include (but are not limited to): assigning names for all the essential inanimate objects in your life (note: just because I’ve nicknamed by new MacBook Pro “MacDreamy” does not necessarily mean I’m guilty of this unpardonable sin, right? Right???), tweeting updates about your harrowing afternoon transition from lying in bed to sprawling on the couch, and foolishly attempting to convince friends that Jimmy Fallon is funnier than Conan O’Brien (or that Fallon is even funny at all, for that matter).

Whether you fall into any of those categories or not, it’s pretty clear that we could all use something to look forward to and take our minds off the current monotony. So it is with that in mind that I now present to you the newly released, hot off the presses 2009-2010 Houston Rockets regular season schedule, along with the top-10 can’t miss home games of the upcoming season.

October 31: Portland vs. Houston

Pretty tough to conceive of a better home opener than this. The Rockets and Blazers staged a few classic battles during the regular season last year and then followed that up by squaring off in a thoroughly entertaining (at least for victorious Rockets fans) round one playoff series. Making matters even more interesting: Houston and Portland will enter this Halloween contest having already played against each other a mere four nights earlier, as a unique scheduling quirk has the two clubs opening up the season in the Rose Garden on October 27. Nothing like kicking the season off with a bang. Speaking of which…

November 4: Los Angeles Lakers vs. Houston

The Rockets and their fans will be treated to another previous playoff grudge match right off the bat when the defending champs come to Toyota Center to renew acquaintances with the only team that took them to seven games in last year’s postseason. There will be subplots galore in this one, not the least of which being Trevor Ariza and Ron Artest squaring off against their old teams for the first time. Quite frankly, if you need me to sell you on the merits of this contest then you either don't have a pulse, or your brain has been turned to mush by prolonged exposure to boring summer sporting events (yes, I'm referring to baseball again).

December 9: Cleveland vs. Houston

The Cavs won a league-best 66 games last season and figure to only be stronger this time around after having added the likes of Shaquille O’Neal, Anthony Parker and Jamario Moon during a busy offseason. Yet the Rockets have historically been one of only a few teams capable of making LeBron James appear somewhat human (especially when playing at Toyota Center) which means this holiday treat should be a feast for Houston hoops fans.

December 22: Los Angeles Clippers vs. Houston

It’s not often you put a circle around the day the Clippers come to town but this year may very well prove to be the exception. For starters, this will be Houston fans’ first chance to get an up close and personal look at this summer’s No. 1 overall draft pick, Blake Griffin. Then throw in the fact that the Clippers have quietly assembled one of the more talent-laden rosters in the entire league. Of course, these are the Clippers we’re talking about so the typical caveats apply. But when viewed from the optimistic prism that the offseason provides, L.A.’s “other” basketball team is a potential playoff club, which places added importance on the Rockets emerging victorious in this pre-Christmas affair.

December 31: Dallas vs. Houston

What better way to ring in the new year than with a grudge match against Dirk Nowitzki and the hated Mavs? Guaranteed to be far superior to some stuffy, overrated and over-hyped New Year’s Eve party you might otherwise attend. Or look at it this way: Would you rather watch a tape-delayed cheese-fest featuring the likes of Carson Daly and Ryan Seacrest, or spend the evening cheering on the home team with 18,000 of your closest friends? Even the deranged “Friends of Fallon” club has to side with me on this one.

January 27: Denver vs. Houston

I’ll be honest, I truly believe the Nuggets are going to fall back to earth a little bit this season. Call me crazy, but I just don’t see a return trip to the Conference Finals in their future. Still, they’re absolutely a playoff caliber team, and a potentially prickly one at that, so they should provide a stiff challenge to the Rockets as both clubs begin the second-half of their respective schedules.

February 16: Utah vs. Houston

The Rockets’ first game after the All-Star break just so happens to coincide with Utah’s first visit to Toyota Center of the season. Throw in the fact this game also takes place on Fat Tuesday and you have yourself a recipe for Mardi Gras madness that’s sure to top anything that takes place on Bourbon Street. OK, that might be a wee bit of a stretch, but you get the drift – this match-up is definitely must-see.

February 24: Orlando vs. Houston

Let no one accuse the defending Eastern Conference champs of resting on their sizeable laurels. Refusing to stick with the status quo, Orlando spent their summer adding Vince Carter, Brandon Bass, Matt Barnes and Ryan Anderson to a team that was already ridiculously good. Will it be enough to once again emerge from the rapidly-improving East? It’s obviously too early to say, but Houston fans will want to seize their opportunity to catch the Magic show’s one and only appearance at Toyota Center this season.

March 19: Boston vs. Houston

Boston’s bid to defend its 2008 title went up in smoke due to a particularly unkind visit from the injury bug, so the Celtics figure to be even more ornery than usual (which is saying something given this group’s penchant for elbows, stare downs and, on occasion, barking while on all fours) this season as they attempt to reclaim their perch atop the NBA mountain. Also worth noting: a win in this game would provide a big and potentially much-needed momentum boost for the Rockets as they enter the final stretch of the season which sees them play 9 of their final 15 games on the road.

April 14: New Orleans vs. Houston

The Rockets wrap up the regular season at home against division-rival New Orleans in a game which, given the uber-competitive nature of the Western Conference, could very well determine playoff-positioning or even a playoff spot, period. Throw in the fact this contest includes appearances from all-universe point guard Chris Paul and Houston-product Emeka Okafor, and there’s really no excuse for any Rockets fan worth his or her salt to miss this game.

Houston Rockets 2009-2010 Regular Season Schedule
Date
Opponent
October 27
@ Portland
October 28
@ Golden State
October 31
Portland
November 2
@ Utah
November 4
L.A. Lakers
November 6
Oklahoma City
November 10
@ Dallas
November 11
Memphis
November 13
@ Sacramento
November 15
@ L.A. Lakers
November 17
Phoenix
November 18
@Minnesota
November 20
@ Atlanta
November 21
Sacramento
November 25
Dallas
November 27
San Antonio
November 29
@ Oklahoma City
December 2
@ L.A. Clippers
December 3
@ Golden State
December 5
@ Portland
December 9
Cleveland
December 11
@ Philadelphia
December 13
@ Toronto
December 15
Detroit
December 16
@ Denver
December 18
@ Dallas
December 19
Oklahoma City
December 22
L.A. Clippers
December 23
@ Orlando
December 26
@ New Jersey
December 27
@ Cleveland
December 29
New Orleans
December 31
Dallas
January 2
@ New Orleans
January 5
@ L.A. Lakers
January 6
@ Phoenix
January 9
New York
January 12
@ Charlotte
January 13
Minnesota
January 15
Miami
January 18
Milwaukee
January 22
@ San Antonio
January 23
Chicago
January 25
Atlanta
January 27
Denver
January 29
Portland
January 31
Phoenix
February 2
Golden State
February 5
@ Memphis
February 6
Philadelphia
February 9
@ Miami
February 16
Utah
February 17
@ Milwaukee
February 20
Indiana
February 21
@ New Orleans
February 24
Orlando
February 26
San Antonio
February 27
@ Utah
March 1
Toronto
March 3
Sacramento
March 6
@ Minnesota
March 7
@ Detroit
March 9
@ Washington
March 13
New Jersey
March 15
Denver
March 17
Memphis
March 19
Boston
March 21
@ New York
March 22
@ Chicago
March 24
@ Oklahoma City
March 25
L.A. Clippers
March 27
L.A. Lakers
March 30
Washington
March 31
@ San Antonio
April 2
@ Boston
April 4
@ Indiana
April 6
@ Memphis
April 7
Utah
April 9
Charlotte
April 11
@ Phoenix
April 12
@ Sacramento
April 14
New Orleans

For ticket information, visit Ticket Central or call 713-627-DUNK

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