Cleveland and Golden State will take long turns on center stage next season as they seek to become the first teams to play each other in three consecutive Finals.
The NBA released the full 2016–17 schedule on Thursday, with the defending champion Cavaliers and runner-up Warriors featured prominently throughout. LeBron James and Stephen Curry will face each other on Christmas Day in Cleveland and on Martin Luther King Day (Jan. 16) in Golden State. The Warriors hosted the Cavaliers on Christmas Day last year.
The Warriors, coming off of a record 73-win season and the off-season signing of Kevin Durant, will make a league-leading 28 appearances on ABC, ESPN and TNT. James and company will appear nationally 25 times.
The season opens on Tuesday, Oct. 25 with three games: Knicks at Cavaliers, Jazz at Blazers, and Spurs at Warriors. Other opening week highlights include Rockets at Lakers on Wednesday, Celtics at Bulls on Thursday and Cavaliers at Raptors on Friday.
Thanks to a summer of shake-ups, there are a number of showdowns to keep an eye on. Durant will make his first return trip to Oklahoma City to face his former team, the Thunder, on Feb. 11. In addition, Chicago’s Dwyane Wade will return to Miami to face the Heat on Nov. 10, New York’s Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah will return to Chicago to face the Bulls on Nov. 4, Atlanta’s Dwight Howard will return to Houston to face James Harden and the Rockets on Feb. 2 and Boston’s Al Horford will return to Atlanta to face the Hawks on Jan. 13.
The NBA’s Christmas Day slate will, as usual, consist of five games: Celtics at Knicks at 12 p.m. ET, Warriors at Cavaliers at 2:30 p.m. ET, Bulls at Spurs at 5 p.m. ET, Timberwolves at Thunder at 8 p.m. ET and Clippers at Lakers at 10:30 p.m. ET.
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All-Star Weekend is set for Feb. 17–19, although the venue remains uncertain after the NBA’s recent decision to pull out of Charlotte. New Orleans, which hosted All-Star Weekend in 2008 and 2014, is reportedly under strong consideration.
For the second straight season, the NBA has continued its effort to reduce the incidences of back-to-back games and four-games-in-five nights. This season, the league’s 30 teams will combine to play just 20 sets of four-in-fives (down from 70 two years ago) and 489 back-to-backs (down from 579 two years ago).
The regular season will conclude on Wednesday, April 12, 2017.