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Bucks face Nets in opener



GIANNIS Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks open the season against the Brooklyn Nets. / JONATHAN DANIEL/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LOS ANGELES (AFP) — The champion Milwaukee Bucks and the Brooklyn Nets will be the showcase teams when the National Basketball Association (NBA) opens the 2021-2022 regular season on October 19, the league announced Tuesday.

Following a shortened offseason due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Bucks will host the Nets in one of two opening night games.

The other contest will feature the Golden State Warriors and the Los Angeles Lakers, who recently signed all-star guard Russell Westbrook.

The Christmas Day schedule will see the Nets face the Lakers and the Luka Doncic-led Dallas Mavericks battle the Utah Jazz in Salt Lake City. The other holiday game sees the Atlanta Hawks visit the New York Knicks.

The 2022 NBA All-Star Game will take place on 20 February, in Cleveland, Ohio.

The regular season is scheduled to end 10 April and the official playoffs begin 16 April following a brief play-in tournament.

The league plans to release its full schedule on 20 August.

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Nets face on Christmas Day, serving as the prime-time attraction on the annual holiday blockbuster. That’s either a preview of the 2022 NBA Finals or a preview of next decade’s Hall of Fame induction.

Assuming with crossed fingers that all will be healthy and ready, that game will feature LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving, all still in their primes. That’s a combined seven Kia MVP trophies and eight championship rings.

Those six players weren’t on the floor for two meetings last season because of various reasons, mainly injury. In the case of Westbrook, he was a member of the Washington Wizards in 2020-21. Both teams are now loaded with Big Threes, are built to win in June and this game will generate conversation in that direction regardless of who wins.

The Lakers and Nets are embarking on a journey of rediscovery and perhaps redemption as well. Each saw their 2020-2021 seasons interrupted and eventually destroyed in the playoffs by injuries — Davis for the Lakers, Harden and Irving for the Nets.

The Lakers couldn’t overcome the loss of Davis or a gimpy LeBron and fell in the first round to the Phoenix Suns. The Nets stood a better chance against the eventual-champion Bucks, but Durant’s potential series-clinching shot was ruled a two-pointer instead of a 3-pointer in the Eastern Conference semifinals because his toe touched the line and the Nets lost in seven games to Milwaukee.

With report from