Five Crucial Lakers Matchups in 2023–24

The 2023-24 NBA schedule was finally unveiled Thursday afternoon, leading to many thrilling matchups with conference or cross-country rivals. For the Los Angeles Lakers and their newfound core, the team is looking forward to building off of their momentum, especially with what Darvin Ham considers to be championship-level depth. Even with the 40 nationally-televised games the Lakers have this year, some opponents stick out from the rest.

Denver Nuggets: Oct. 24, 4:30pm PST (TNT)

A rematch of the 2023 Western Conference Finals is in order, and opening night is the perfect opportunity. The Lakers get to watch the Denver Nuggets hoist their first championship banner before Denver comes to LA on Feb. 8. The purple and gold will be eager to show off their improvements, even more so against the team that swept them in the conference finals. They have addressed their needs of wing depth, three-point shooting and defense in the offseason, and newcomers Gabe Vincent, Taurean Prince and Jaxson Hayes will be pivotal against the defending champs. D’Angelo Russell, Austin Reaves and Rui Hachimura also have something to prove, and there’s no better place to do it than in Denver.

The key matchup here is between the dominant bigs Anthony Davis and Nikola Jokic. In the Western Conference Finals, Davis averaged 26.8 points, 14 rebounds and 2.8 blocks against the Joker. It’s imperative that AD makes a statement against Jokic and the champs to begin the season, and the momentum can continue from there. With the Lakers now having more versatility and depth, as well as a chip on their shoulder, expect their matches with Denver to be more competitive and close.

Phoenix Suns: Oct. 26, 7:00pm PST (TNT)

What better opponent to have for a home opener than the upgraded Phoenix Suns? Phoenix is now looking to take the West by storm, but not if the Lakers can help it. This matchup holds even more weight, considering it’s the first time LeBron James and Kevin Durant have faced each other since 2018. The two superstars leading their respective franchises during opening week is a sight to behold.

James, Davis and co. will have their hands full with the Suns, who boast the trio of Durant, Devin Booker and Bradley Beal. Aside from them, though, are DeAndre Ayton and some solid role players, including Josh Okogie, Eric Gordon and Yuta Watanabe. The Lakers have faced talented teams before, but this Suns squad could be the toughest team they play all season. Setting the tone early is critical for success down the line.

Los Angeles Clippers: Nov. 1, 7:00pm PST (ESPN)

The crosstown showdown begins early when the Lakers host the Los Angeles Clippers in November. The Clippers didn’t make any major additions to the roster, though they did trade for Kenyon Martin Jr. and draft Kobe Brown and Jordan Miller. They also brought back ex-Laker Russell Westbrook. However, even with minimal moves, the Clippers have always seemed to have the Lakers’ number in the regular season. They’ve won the last 11 games between the two franchises. The duel between the supporting casts is certaining one to watch. The Clippers have always found success with their role players, though the Lakers are looking to give them a run for their money this time around.

As always, watching Davis and James square off against Kawhi Leonard and Paul George is a welcome sight. As these duos come inevitably closer to the end, every matchup is worth tuning into. The “Battle of LA” is always a thriller, and next season is no exception.

Milwaukee Bucks: Mar. 8, 7:00pm PST (ESPN)

The matchup of LeBron and AD versus Giannis Antetokounmpo never disappoints. All NBA fans should have one or more of these games circled on their calendar. It’s a prime-time matchup between two title contenders, even if fans have to wait until after the All-Star Break to see it. Davis made a statement against the Greek Freak in two games last season. He averaged 33.5 points, 13 rebounds and three assists per game. Giannis, meanwhile was unstoppable, with a line of 39 PPG, 8.5 RPG and 5.5 APG. The Bucks drafted and signed several rookies and also brought on Robin Lopez and former Laker Malik Beasley. Still, the team runs through Giannis, as well as the equally impressive Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday.

Despite Milwaukee’s early exit last year, they are motivated to prove that they’re still a force in the league. The Lakers are equally a force to be reckoned with, and these two games will have NBA fans wanting more.

Boston Celtics: Dec. 25, 2:00pm PST (ESPN)

Finally, no Lakers schedule is complete without a fateful date with the Boston Celtics. Historically, the Celtics have 165 regular-season wins to the Lakers’ 133, and they also have the advantage when it comes to postseason wins (43 to 31). To Boston’s credit, the Celtics have made notable improvements across the board, none bigger than the acquisition of Kristaps Porzingis. Boston also has a host of weapons around Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown—namely Derrick White, Malcolm Brogdon, Al Horford and Robert Williams III.

It’s worth noting that the Lakers-Celtics Christmas game is the fifth between the two franchises, and the first since 2008—after Boston claimed their 17th title. With the Lakers evening the score in 2020, there’s no doubt that each team thinks this year is theirs. The Lakers will need to have luck on their side in this matchup and the next one (Feb. 1 at TD Garden), but are more than ready for the opportunity.

Honorable Mention: Return of Former Lakers

Despite all of the big names worth paying attention to—in addition to the rookies, who will get their first experience against a storied franchise—there is one more aspect worth noting. Over the course of the Lakers’ improvements, they had to part ways with several players who excelled in their roles last year. Their respective returns to LA are mentioned below:

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