Ten must-see Warriors games for 2022-23 NBA title defense originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
The NBA schedule is out, which means it’s time to grab your calendar, along with a pen and pencil to circle the dates most significant as the Warriors defend their latest championship.
Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green – all considered “aging” at the start of last season – will be a year older. With new rings and another Larry O’Brien trophy, the targets on their backs will be bigger and brighter.
There will be dates worthy of circling in pencil, but here are 10 that deserve ink:
Oct 18: vs. Lakers
It’s ring night. It’s LeBron and AD, or so we hope. The Lakers are not a threat win the West, or even the battle of LA, but if LeBron James and Anthony Davis are healthy – a huge “if” – they have a chance to be a compelling opponent even if Russell Westbrook remains on the roster.
If by some form of masterful deception, they turn Russ into Kyrie Irving, there is the possibility of real fireworks – in every direction. Otherwise, it’s just Curry toppling James again while Andrew Wiggins tries to show LeBron he deserved to stay in Cleveland in 2014.
Oct. 25: at Suns
Anytime Chris Paul and Curry hop off their respective benches for the opening tip, it’s worthy of attention. Some consider CP3 the better point guard – despite Steph leading his team to six NBA Finals and four championships. Each has more seasons in his past than his future, which only amplifies the intensity.
The Suns were the No. 1 overall seed last season but failed to reach the conference finals, so Paul’s quest for his first ring is moving into the desperation stage. With Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton and Mikel Bridges back for another try, Phoenix is the other team built to grapple with the Warriors.
Nov. 4: at Pelicans
The Grizzlies are the most dangerous young team in the West, but the Pelicans are positioning themselves to make them work for that unofficial title. Brandon Ingram is at the door of stardom, they acquired CJ McCollum at the trade deadline, they have a solid bench – and Zion Williamson will make his return.
This game will mean more for the Pels and coach Willie Green than for the Warriors. It will be fun to see if this franchise is ready to make back-to-back playoff appearances for first time since 2009, when CP3, David West and Peja Stojaković were leading a team known as the Hornets.
Nov. 23: vs. Clippers
For much of the 2010s, the Clippers were No. 1 on Golden State’s enemy list, thanks to the presence of CP3 and Blake Griffin. The Warriors killed the feud by being vastly superior, going 14-2 vs. “Lob City” from 2014-15 through 2017-18. Kawhi Leonard, a top-five player when healthy, returns after a year away and will be greeted by Paul George and new teammate John Wall.
When Leonard and Paul signed on in 2019-20, the Clippers had visions of championships. Didn’t happen. Meanwhile, the Warriors snagged another. LA is the biggest threat to challenge the Warriors in the West.
Nov. 27: at Timberwolves
Already a difficult matchup – the Warriors are 5-5 over the last 10 games against Minnesota – the Timberwolves now become downright imposing. Anthony Edwards is a budding All-Star in his third season. They’ve added Rudy Gobert to anchor defense that often goes soft behind Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell.
After pushing Memphis to six games in the first round of the conference playoffs last season, the Timberwolves seek consecutive playoff appearances for the first time since 2004. No longer satisfied with being sneaky good against the Warriors, they’re coming after the entire league.
Dec. 10: vs. Celtics
A Finals rematch. Nothing nourishes the three comrades who have dictated the fortunes of the Warriors for nearly 10 years quite like disrespect. Steph and Klay and Draymond thrive on it, and Grant Williams was heedless enough to serve it up on a massive platter.
Saying the Warriors “were not the better team,” despite shoving Boston into summer with three consecutive double-digit Finals losses, is a headlong dive into the face of the facts. Such nonsense gives the Warriors two options. They can take the high road and ignore it, or they’ll let it marinate in their souls until tipoff. Bet on the latter.
Dec. 13: at Bucks
After pushing Boston to seven games in the East finals, despite the absence of All-Star forward Khris Middleton, the Bucks can believe they could have won it all. They were deprived of a chance to defend their championship against the Warriors in what would have been a riveting series – if only because no one has quite solved the problem that is Giannis.
The first look at the Finals that might have been is worthy of the brightest lights on the marquee, and the team that walks out of Fiserv Forum with the victory will have made a statement that can stand at least until the March 11 rematch at Chase Center.
Dec. 16: at 76ers
Center Joel Embiid is a certified beast. Tyrese Maxey is a terrific young combo guard. Tobias Harris can get buckets at all three levels. They’ve added the very capable De’Anthony Melton to a strong backcourt. And then there is one of the most important but underrated offseason developments in the NBA: James Harden claiming to be more committed than ever.
If The Beard is serious about fitness, his game should return to an elite level. That’s enough to make the Sixers a threat to come out of the Eastern Conference. This is one of those games that will draw league-wide attention.
Dec. 21: at Nets
The Warriors might not have had a more alarming victory last season than their demolition of the Nets in November. In the second of a four-game trip through the Eastern Conference, Curry dropped 37 points – draining 9-of-14 from deep – and the Warriors shot 51.9 percent from the field while limiting Brooklyn to 38.6. Kevin Durant and James Harden combined to shoot 12-of-32.
It was a statement win over a team many considered favorites to reach The Finals. The Nets are, as of now, a franchise in chaos. Will KD stay? Will Ben Simmons play? This game, on the second night of a back-to-back set, could rank high on the drama scale.
Christmas Day: vs. Grizzlies
With the NBA’s greatest traditional rivalry, Lakers-Celtics, still deep in hibernation, there is a ferocity void. Thankfully, Warriors-Grizzlies has sprinted in to fill it. Memphis won a play-in game to deprive the Warriors of a playoff berth in 2021 and the Warriors came back in 2022 to oust the Grizzlies in a hostile conference semifinals matchup enriched by exchanging allegations of malignant behavior.
And now, on the board of the Grizzlies’ weight room, we have a pointed reply to Draymond Green’s comment essentially saying the impetuous young Grizz are due for a steaming cup of comeuppance. Let there be heat.