NBA releases 1st half of 2020-21 schedule
Adam Pantozzi / National Basketball Association / Getty

The NBA released the first portion of its 72-game schedule for the upcoming season Friday.

The Kevin Durant-led Brooklyn Nets will kick off the 2020-21 campaign Dec. 22 with a matchup against his former team, the Golden State Warriors, at 7 p.m. ET. That contest will be followed by defending champions the Los Angeles Lakers taking on the Los Angeles Clippers at 10 p.m. ET to complete the league's opening-night doubleheader.

On the nationally televised docket for Dec. 23, the Boston Celtics host the Milwaukee Bucks (7:30 p.m. ET) before Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks visit the new-look Phoenix Suns featuring Chris Paul (10:30 p.m. ET).

The campaign will also see the implementation of a play-in tournament featuring teams ranked 7-10 in winning percentage in each conference. The tournament is scheduled to run May 18-21 after the regular season concludes.

Friday's schedule announcement covers games between Dec. 22 and March 4. The slate for the season's second half will be announced at a later date sometime prior to the All-Star break (March 5-10).

Each team will play 37 or 38 games in the first half of the season, with 558 of 1,080 total regular-season contests taking place during this portion of the schedule.

Teams scheduled to play on the road twice in one market will play those games consecutively. The league has also taken steps to increase consecutive road games when teams visit opponents geographically close to one another, while single-game road trips have been reduced by about 50%.

Here are some players who will be returning to familiar confines during the season's first half:

Date Home Away Marquee return
Dec. 22 Lakers Clippers Montrezl Harrell
Dec. 25 Celtics Nets Kyrie Irving
Jan. 26 Rockets Wizards Russell Westbrook
Jan. 29 Pelicans Bucks Jrue Holiday
Feb. 13 Nets Warriors Kevin Durant
Feb. 15 Wizards Rockets John Wall

Other intriguing matchups include Bucks-Lakers on Jan. 21, Lakers-Nets in Brooklyn on Feb. 18, and an NBA Finals rematch featuring the Lakers and Heat on Feb. 20.

The Toronto Raptors will play four nationally televised games during the first half of the season, plus an additional three contests on NBATV.

NBA releases 1st half of 2020-21 schedule
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