The Miami Heat open their latest title defense with a back-to-back, and they face two top challengers in the Eastern Conference in the first three games it was revealed Tuesday when the 1,230-game schedule for the NBA’s 2013-14 season was released.
Miami plays host to the Chicago Bulls on Oct. 29, joining Orlando at Indiana and the Clippers at Lakers on the opening-night docket. Heat-Bulls and the newest installment of the Los Angeles showdown — maybe with and maybe without Kobe Bryant, definitely with Doc Rivers, definitely without Dwight Howard – will be nationally televised by TNT.
Opening Night games on national TV
|Oct. 29, 2013||8 p.m.||Bulls vs. Heat||TNT|
|Oct. 29, 2013||10:30 p.m.||Clippers vs. Lakers||TNT|
Miami, with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and the rest of the two-time defending champs, plays the next night in Philadelphia, too. Then, on Nov. 1, the Heat will be in Brooklyn for a very early read on the Nets following the additions of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.
One of the most bruising matchups in the East, the Heat-Pacers, will not get under way until Dec. 10 in Indianapolis. That will mark those teams’ first meeting since the Heat muscled past the Pacers in a seven-game Eastern Conference finals last spring.
(The Heat won’t have it too hard before then. They have an 11-game stretch beginning Nov. 9 that goes: Celtics, Bucks, Mavericks, at Bobcats, Hawks, at Magic, Magic, Suns, at Cavaliers, at Raptors, Bobcats.)
The NBA Finals rematches with the Spurs are Jan. 14 in Miami and March 6 in San Antonio. The Spurs, the reigning Western Conference champions, will have run the schedule obstacle course long before that, though. They play 16 of their first 27 games on the road and have four back-to-back sets in the opening 13 games. (Prepare for Gregg Popovich to ration minutes for his veterans.)
The annual rodeo trip — so named because the Spurs vacate AT&T Center for a massive rodeo — is technically a nine-game swing this season. It actually is a six-gamer, mostly to the East, followed by five days of All-Star break, followed by three games in the West. After that, the payback is eight of 10 at home.
Other similar challenges jump out of the schedule. The Nets are gone for six straight games on a greased calendar of nine days. The Bulls have a pair of six-game trips. The Bobcats go out for five after Christmas and over New Year’s, come home for one game, go out for two, come home for one more, then go out for two more. All before a three-game homestand that includes the Heat and Clippers.
The Clippers have a seven-game trip that includes the return of Rivers to Boston on Dec. 13, before they go out for seven more in January. (The latter is at the same time the Lakers also leave Staples Center for seven games, part of a stretch of 12 of 16 on the road. A 13th contest, against the Clippers, is officially as the visiting team.)
Christmas Day games on national TV
|Dec. 25, 2013||Noon||Bulls vs. Nets||ESPN|
|Dec. 25, 2013||2:30 p.m.||Thunder vs. Knicks||ABC|
|Dec. 25, 2013||5 p.m.||Heat vs. Lakers||ABC|
|Dec. 25, 2013||7 p.m.||Rockets vs. Spurs||ESPN|
|Dec. 25, 2013||10:30 p.m.||Clippers vs. Warriors||ESPN|
Both L.A. teams are part of the Christmas lineup that begins at noon Eastern and goes into the night with Bulls at Nets, Thunder at Knicks, Heat at Lakers, Rockets at Spurs, and Clippers at Warriors, the last a 10:30 p.m. ET start.
Howard faces the Lakers for the first time on Nov. 7 and plays his former team at Staples Center on Feb. 19 at April 8, in case Los Angelenos want to plan exercises to strengthen their vocal chords. And Howard is in Orlando on March 5, if people there want to boo him for old time’s sake. Or thank him for leaving.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day games on national TV
|Jan. 20, 2014||2:30 p.m.||Nets vs. Knicks||ESPN|
|Jan. 20, 2014||5 p.m.||Pelicans vs. Grizzlies||NBA TV|
|Jan. 20, 2014||8 p.m.||Lakers vs. Bulls||TNT|
|Jan. 20, 2014||10:30 p.m.||Pacers vs. Warriors||TNT|
The Lakers, Heat and Knicks lead with 25 scheduled appearances on TNT, ESPN and ABC national telecasts, followed by the Thunder and Bulls with 24, the Clippers with 21 and the Rockets with 20.
In addition, NBA TV will show all of those teams and many others as part of a 96-game schedule that includes 19 Fan Night games. Fans will vote on NBA.com each week to determine which games will appear on NBA TV for the Tuesday night Fan Night games.