2021-22 Kia Season Preview
NBA League Pass Watch Guide: 2021-22 Season, Part 1
Here are 20 must-watch games for the remainder of the 2021 calendar year, available exclusively on NBA League Pass
By Brian Martin, NBA.com
The NBA’s 75th anniversary season tips off on Oct. 19 and NBA League Pass is your key to all of the action – every posterizing dunk, every step-back 3, every no-look pass, every chase-down block, and every game-winning shot.
To help get you ready for the season, here are 20 must-see games from the season opener to the end of the 2021 calendar year that are available exclusively on NBA League Pass. Watch every NBA game on any device whenever and wherever you are. Sign up here to get in on the action today.
Wednesday, Oct. 20
While the 2021-22 seasons tips off on Tuesday, Oct. 19 with a pair of games on TNT, opening night for the rest of the league comes on Wednesday – and we have three games to keep an eye on that night.
Chicago Bulls at Detroit Pistons, 7 PM ET
It’s the NBA debut of No. 1 overall pick Cade Cunningham as his Detroit Pistons host the Chicago Bulls in the season opener for both teams. This will also provide our first look at Lonzo Ball and DeMar DeRozan and the new-look Bulls.
Washington Wizards at Toronto Raptors, 7:30 PM ET
This marks the first game in Toronto since Feb. 28, 2020 as the Raptors played the entire 2020-21 season with Tampa serving as their temporary home. Needless to say, the crowd at Scotiabank Arena will be ready to welcome their team home as well as cheer on No. 4 pick Scottie Barnes as he makes his NBA debut. And in keeping with the theme of the NBA’s 75th anniversary, the first game in league history took place in Toronto on Nov. 1, 1946 – so it’s definitely fitting to be back in Canada this season.
Houston Rockets at Minnesota Timberwolves, 8 PM ET
Another top-five draft pick makes his NBA debut as Jalen Green – the No. 2 pick in the draft after playing last season with NBA G League Ignite – suits up for the Rockets for his first regular season game. We also get to see last year’s No. 1 overall pick – the explosive Anthony Edwards – make his sophomore debut after finishing as the Kia Rookie of the Year runner-up last season.
Thursday, Oct. 21
Milwaukee Bucks at Miami Heat, 8 PM ET
The last two teams to represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals meet in Miami in the season opener for the Heat and the League Pass debut for the Bucks. These two teams have eliminated one another in each of the past two postseasons – the No. 5 Heat upset the No. 1 Bucks 4-1 in the 2020 Eastern Conference semifinals, followed by the No. 3 Bucks sweeping the No. 6 Heat 4-0 in the first round of Milwaukee’s run to the 2021 NBA championship.
Friday, Oct. 22
Indiana Pacers at Washington Wizards, 7 PM ET
This is a rematch from last season’s Eastern Conference Play-In as the Wizards defeated the Pacers to earn the No. 8 spot in the playoff field. The two teams also put on one of the most entertaining games of the 2020-21 regular season – an offensive explosion that saw the teams combine for 295 points (tied for the season-high across the league last season) as Washington prevailed 154-141 in what is the second-fastest paced game on record (119.5 possessions per 48 minutes) dating back to the 1996-97 season.
Thursday, Oct. 28
Memphis Grizzlies at Golden State Warriors, 10 PM ET
Another rematch from last season’s Play-In, this time in the Western Conference. The Grizzlies defeated the Warriors to secure the No. 8 seed with a 117-112 win in an overtime classic. Stephen Curry scored 39 points for Golden State, but Ja Morant (35 points and two clutch buckets in the final minute of OT) and the Grizzlies had an answer for every Warriors run. While the stakes are lower this time around, it’s always good to catch this matchup between the veteran two-time Kia MVP and an up-and-coming guard with such a bright future ahead of him.
Friday, Oct. 29
Cleveland Cavaliers at Los Angeles Lakers, 10:30 PM ET
Since joining the Los Angeles Lakers three seasons ago, LeBron James’ two highest-scoring games have come against his former teams – 51 points against Miami just a few weeks into his Lakers run, and 46 points against Cleveland last season. What does he have in store for his former squad in the opening week of his 19th NBA season?
Sunday, Nov. 14
Milwaukee Bucks at Atlanta Hawks, 6 PM ET
This is a rematch of last season’s Eastern Conference finals. The last two wins of that series came without two-time MVP and eventual Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, who was sidelined with a knee injury. This forced the Bucks to get contributions up and down the roster to knock off the young Hawks, who were two wins away from The Finals in their first playoff appearance in four seasons. While the Bucks defend their title, the Hawks look to build on last season’s success as both teams have Finals aspirations.
Portland Trail Blazers at Denver Nuggets, 8 PM ET
It’s the first appearance of the reigning Kia MVP Nikola Jokic and the king of clutch time Damian Lillard on the League Pass watch guide, but it won’t be the last. This is another playoff rematch from last season’s opening round as the short-handed Nuggets (without Jamal Murray, who suffered a torn ACL in April) were able to knock off the Blazers in six games despite Lillard averaging 34 points and 10 assists, including a 55-point performance in a double-OT thriller. Lillard became only the eighth player to score at least 55 points in a playoff game.
Wednesday, Nov. 17
Cleveland Cavaliers at Brooklyn Nets, 7:30 PM ET
The Cavaliers spoiled the debut game of the Brooklyn Big Three of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden with a 147-135 double-overtime win in one of the most entertaining games of the season. Collin Sexton scored 42 points and the Cavs splashed 20 3s to offset a combined 75 points from Durant (38) and Irving (37) and a triple-double from Harden (21-10-12). The Nets enter the 2021-22 season as one of the favorites to win the title. Can the Cavs pull off another upset as they try to get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2018?
Sunday, Nov. 21
Dallas Mavericks at LA Clippers, 3:30 PM ET
The Clippers have knocked off the Mavericks in the opening round of the playoffs in each of the past two seasons. Since Luka Doncic entered the league in 2018-19, the Clippers and Mavs have met 23 times with LA holding a 14-9 advantage. Is the 2021-22 the season that the Mavs can get past the Clippers and make an extended postseason run? That won’t be answered in November, but it is another chapter in a brewing rivalry.
Denver Nuggets at Phoenix Suns, 8 PM ET
It’s one more playoff rematch from 2020 as the defending Western Conference champion Suns host the Nuggets after sweeping Denver in last year’s Western Conference semifinals. The Western Conference looks to be as competitive as ever as the Suns face the daunting task of trying to return to the NBA Finals. The Nuggets are one of many teams looking to block that path and create their own.
Friday, Nov. 26
Minnesota Timberwolves at Charlotte Hornets, 7 PM ET
It’s the first meeting of the season of the two players that finished 1-2 in the Rookie of the Year race last season – Charlotte’s LaMelo Ball and Minnesota’s Anthony Edwards. Both players provided plenty of jaw-dropping highlights in their first NBA seasons – from LaMelo’s dimes to Edwards’ post dunks – that we can’t wait to see what they have in store for their sophomore seasons.
Portland Trail Blazers at Golden State Warriors, 10 PM ET
The last time the Warriors and Blazers met in the Bay Area, Stephen Curry dropped a career-high 62 points on Jan. 3 at Chase Center in San Francisco. Can Curry put on another show or will Oakland native Damian Lillard show out in the Bay against his hometown squad?
Saturday, Nov. 27
New York Knicks at Atlanta Hawks, 7:30 PM ET
NBA League Pass gives up a preview of the highly anticipated playoff rematch between these teams at Madison Square Garden on Christmas Day. The emerging rivalry between the Hawks (most notably Trae Young) and the Knicks even made it to the WWE this summer as Young made an appearance at The Garden and was greeted by a chorus of boos. But before he could attempt to take another bow, he was ejected from the match, which drew plenty of cheers from the New York fans.
Monday, Nov. 29
Charlotte Hornets at Chicago Bulls, 8 PM ET
While the Ball family may not all be able to be together on Thanksgiving Day, brothers Lonzo and LaMelo will meet just a few days later when the Bulls host the Hornets in Chicago. Lonzo Ball’s move to Chicago was one of the highlights of an active free agency period in the league as the Bulls have their focus on the playoffs with the additions of Lonzo and DeMar DeRozan.
Friday, Dec. 3
Phoenix Suns at Golden State Warriors, 10 PM ET
After making five straight Finals appearances, the Warriors have missed the playoffs in each of the past two seasons – being edged out in the Play-In by Memphis last season. Of course, both of those seasons were played without Klay Thompson, who is set to return this season following ACL and Achilles tears over the past two years. The timeline for Thompson’s return is still to be determined, but there is a chance he could be back on the court before the end of the calendar year. His return is key to the Warriors challenging teams like Phoenix and the rest of the Western Conference contenders this season.
Saturday, Dec. 18
Houston Rockets at Detroit Pistons, 12 PM ET
The top two picks in the 2021 NBA Draft – Detroit’s Cade Cunningham and Houston’s Jalen Green – square off for the second time in their first two months as pros. The 2021 draft class has been considered by many to be stacked with talent, which should make this year’s Rookie of the Year race fun. Getting the best of a head-to-head matchup with a fellow top-tier pick is always a good way to set yourself apart.
Sunday, Dec. 19
New Orleans Pelicans at Philadelphia 76ers, 8 PM ET
We’ve highlighted a few guard matchups so far in the watch guide, but now it’s time to look at two of the heavyweights – both in terms of stature and talent – in Zion Williamson and Joel Embiid. The two players epitomize the multi-faceted talents of the current big man in the NBA. Zion was unleashed as a point center last season in New Orleans, initiating offense for himself and teammates with the ball in his hands on the perimeter. Embiid is just as likely to take advantage of a player in the paint as he is to step back and shoot a jumper with a feathery touch and great efficiency. Seeing these two against one another will be a treat.
Friday, Dec. 31
Phoenix Suns at Boston Celtics, 1 PM ET
We close out Part One of the watch guide on New Year’s Eve and a matchup between two of the top young scorers in the game today – Phoenix’s Devin Booker and Boston’s Jayson Tatum. They are the only two players drafted since 2015 to score at least 60 points in a game – Booker had 70 against Boston back in 2017, and Tatum dropped a career-best 60 against San Antonio last season. Which young star will shine on the final day of 2021?