Factbox: NBA-Key dates, facts and matchups of the 2020-21 season

·3-min read

(Reuters) - Following is the list of key dates, facts and match-ups of the 2020-21 NBA season which begins on Dec. 22:

KEY DATES

* Pre-season: Dec. 11-19

* Regular season: Dec. 22 to May 16

* All-Star break: March 5-10

* Play-in tournament: May 18-21

* Playoffs: May 22 to July 22

* NBA Finals: July 8-22

MATCHES AND PLAY-IN TOURNAMENT

* Each team will play 72 regular season games, down from the usual 82, which includes 42 games against intra-conference opponents and 30 against inter-conference opponents.

* The play-in tournament will decide the final two seeds from each conference. Teams ranked 7-10 in each conference (based on winning percentages) will take part after the regular season ends to decide the seventh and eighth seeds.

* In the play-in tournament, Team 7 first hosts Team 8 with the winner awarded the seventh seed in the playoffs. The loser plays the winner of the match between Team 9 and Team 10 to decide the final seed.

KEY MATCH-UPS

* Los Angeles Clippers v Los Angeles Lakers (Dec. 22)

Defending champions the Lakers take on a Clippers side that was left licking their wounds after being knocked out in the conference semi-finals last season and the city rivals face off on the opening day of the season.

Reigning Sixth Man of the Year, Montrezl Harrell, made the switch from the Clippers to the Lakers in the off-season, shocking even his own team mates and raising the stakes in a rivalry between two of the West's powerhouses.

* Golden State Warriors v Brooklyn Nets (Dec. 22)

Eighteen months after Kevin Durant ruptured his Achilles tendon in the 2019 NBA Finals with the Golden State Warriors, he finally makes his Nets debut on opening night - against his former team.

The Nets struggled last year with Durant sidelined while Kyrie Irving's season also ended prematurely when he needed shoulder surgery and the pair will be looking to make amends this season.

Hall of Famer Steve Nash will be making his coaching debut with the Nets.

* Brooklyn Nets v Boston Celtics (Dec. 25)

Having missed the Nets' trips to The Garden last season due to the shoulder injury, Irving returns to Boston on Christmas day for the first time since he left the franchise in the 2019 free agency.

Irving's departure left Celtics supporters with a bad taste in their mouths but the guard will be relieved that the arena will not be packed with fans chanting "Kyrie sucks", as they did last year when he was absent.

* Los Angeles Lakers v Milwaukee Bucks (Jan. 21)

Last season's two top seeds face each other with two reigning Most Valuable Players in their lineups -- Lakers' Finals MVP LeBron James against the man expected to take that torch from him in the future, League MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.

The Bucks tied down Antetokounmpo ahead of his free agency, with the "Greek Freak" signing a five-year extension, and brought in Jrue Holiday from the New Orleans Pelicans to strengthen the supporting cast.

The Bucks topped the Eastern Conference and stormed into the playoffs the last two years, but questions remain over whether they can hold their own in the post-season.

* Miami Heat v Los Angeles Lakers (Feb. 20)

Fans will have to wait two months for the first rematch of the 2020 NBA Finals but that gives both teams enough time to settle down after an off-season rebuild.

The Heat, led by a smarting Jimmy Butler, have added Avery Bradley and Maurice Harkless to their ranks and will eye redemption after injuries to Goran Dragic and Bam Adebayo severely weakened them in the Finals.

(Compiled by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru, editing by Ed Osmond)