Lakers open title defense against Clippers; host Cavaliers on Christmas Day

The NBA's marquee matchup, once again on Christmas Day, will be the Kobe versus Shaq show.

The Lakers will play host to the Cleveland Cavaliers, with their new center and a familiar face, Shaquille O'Neal, and LeBron James, on Dec. 25 at Staples Center in a 2 p.m. game, according to the NBA regular-season schedule that was released Tuesday.

It's the fourth time in the six seasons since the Lakers traded O'Neal that they have a game scheduled against their former star on Christmas.

This season's holiday game has plenty of story lines, including Bryant versus James, a matchup that many deemed inevitable in the NBA Finals last season, and for this December game may likely yield more Nike puppet ads.

The Clippers also will play on Christmas Day in a road game against the Phoenix Suns. With the acquisition of No. 1 pick Blake Griffin, the Clippers will be featured on national television eight times this season.

The Lakers will get their championship rings in the season opener Oct. 27, when they host the Clippers at Staples Center.

The teams will close the regular season against each other in a Clippers home game on April 14.

Last Christmas, the Lakers played the Boston Celtics at Staples Center, but their epic rivalry won't begin again until Jan. 31 when the Lakers play in Boston. The Lakers play host to the Celtics on Feb. 18.

Overall, the Lakers have a favorable schedule to open the season with 17 of their first 21 games at home through mid-December, before playing five straight road games.

The Lakers' longest trip of the season is an eight-game trip that begins in late January. The Lakers will face the Orlando Magic, their opponent in the 2009 NBA Finals, at Staples Center on Jan. 18 and in Orlando on March 7.

The Denver Nuggets, who lost in six games to the Lakers in last spring's Western Conference finals, will play against the Lakers at Staples Center on Feb. 5 and Feb. 28, and at the Pepsi Center in Denver on Nov. 13 and April 8.

The Houston Rockets, who pushed their second-round playoff matchup with the Lakers to seven games, play the Lakers here on Nov. 15 and Jan. 5, and at the Toyota Center on Nov. 4 and March 27.

The Utah Jazz, which the Lakers bounced in the first round in five games, will meet at Staples Center on Dec. 9 and April 2 with the other two regular season games at EnergySolutions Arena on Dec. 12 and Feb. 10.

On the season's opening night Oct. 27, O'Neal and James will play their first regular season game together as the Cavaliers play host to the Celtics.


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