Opening night for the 2023-24 NBA season is just around the corner. In similar fashion to previous seasons, the Los Angeles Lakers will once again be one of the teams to watch come on the first day of the 2023-24 season.
A lineup filled with promise will definitely be something worth tuning in for, but which of the purple and gold’s 82 games stand out above the rest?
Los Angeles Lakers vs. Denver Nuggets, October 24
The Lakers’ first game of the season is an instant rematch of the 2023 Western Conference Finals as they face the Denver Nuggets. Though LeBron and company ended up getting swept out of the playoffs last season by Nikola Jokic’s crew, a few factors need to be considered before writing anyone off.
Denver may still have the reigning Finals MVP and a resurgent Jamal Murray, but the departures of Jeff Green and Bruce Brown leave a significant spot in their depth chart to fill. Los Angeles, on the other hand, was able to secure the recommitments of their standout players last year — especially Austin Reaves with crucial Team USA experience. Add the likes of Max Christie, Gabe Vincent, and Cam Reddish into an already deep bench and you get a formidable opponent for any team.
It may just be the first game of an extremely long season, but the difference between a 1-0 and 0-1 start cannot be understated.
Los Angeles Lakers vs. Los Angeles Clippers, November 1
Gone are the days of the Clippers being considered the ‘noisy neighbors’ of Los Angeles. The Purple and Gold have gone 11 consecutive games without a win against Steve Ballmer’s franchise, with their last win dating back to the bubble season.
Sure, the Lakers’ most recent victory over the Clippers subsequently resulted in their 17th NBA Championship, but that was already over three years ago. Since their latest meeting, the LakeShow enjoyed a significantly more successful playoff run and a more impactful off-season, giving them a good chance to finally end the slippery slope on paper.
But, like in all sports, games are not won on paper.
As is consistent with the spectacle that is Los Angeles itself, there will be no shortage of stars come the first of November. Russell Westbrook, Kawhi Leonard, and Paul George stand between LeBron, Anthony Davis, and Austin Reaves once more. With the NBA’s new policy against load management on back-to-back games, will we finally see a battle for the city at full strength?
Los Angeles Lakers vs. Boston Celtics, December 25
When it comes to a game between the Lakers and Celtics, it simply goes without introduction. The most iconic rivalry in NBA history between two of the greatest franchises in basketball always produces a spectacle, and this year, their Christmas Day bout will fall under the bright lights of the Crypto.com Arena.
There is a lot riding on this matchup as both squads reached their respective Conference Finals last season, solidifying their status as title contenders. What may come to mind for the LakeShow faithful, however, is the no-call on LeBron’s go-ahead drive in the dying seconds of regulation during their match last January 28 which could have led to the game-winning free throws.
The storyline took a new turn during the offseason when Eric Lewis, the controversial official in charge of that game, retired abruptly on August 30 after the NBA launched an investigation over his alleged Celtics-sided ‘burner account’ on social media.
When the Lakers and Celtics meet on Christmas, it goes without saying that the basketball world’s eyes will definitely be on the two juggernauts. A victory will allow the Lakers to end 2023 on a strong note and perhaps earn a bit of vindication for their ‘what if’ moment back in January.
Los Angeles Lakers at Golden State Warriors, January 27
Anyone who’s watched basketball at some point in the last ten years is all too familiar with the most prominent rivalry in the modern era — that of LeBron James and Steph Curry.
The King vs. Chef Curry. The most dominant all-around hooper in history vs. the greatest shooter of all time. One matchup alone is already enough to get anyone excited for this bout.
But there’s more to this game than another clash of two rivals and old friends. The Warriors and Lakers both had fruitful off-seasons in terms of roster changes, with Golden State earning the services of ‘Point God’ Chris Paul who is expected to be their primary playmaker this year.
Add that to Jonathan Kuminga’s rise and Brandin Podziemski showing out against the Lakers’ preseason unit, anticipation will definitely be high regardless of how the teams’ records fare after the first three months of play.
If last season’s playoffs were any indicator of the strength both teams possess, it’s looking like another instant classic beckons. Will Golden State avenge their Game 6 elimination, or can Darvin Ham guide his crew to another masterclass?
Los Angeles Lakers vs. Milwaukee Bucks, March 8
The most talked-about transfer saga since the days of LeBron’s ‘The Decision’ finally came to an end last summer. On September 27, it was announced that lifelong Portland Trailblazer Damian Lillard was taking his talents to Milwaukee in a blockbuster trade that even involved the Phoenix Suns.
Dame now links up with the superstar teammate he’d been yearning for all these years in two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, creating what has the makings of a lethal pairing. Lillard’s debut in a Bucks uniform was in their preseason bout against the Lakers, where he scored 14 points on a mere 30% clip. It’s worth noting that limited minutes in one’s first taste of competitive basketball in months should not be a telling indicator of succeeding performances, leaving more to be seen as time goes on.
With that said, everyone is aware of just how good Dame is. For years he put the Trail Blazers on his back and sent them to the playoffs against all odds. Now that he has the Greek Freak in his corner, the matchup of dynamic duos against Bron and AD will be a sight to behold come March.