The start of the 2021-22 NBA season is closer than we thought with training camp commencing on September 28. Thrills from the just-concluded season remain fresh in the memory of fans across all 30 teams, as they witnessed two unexpected teams making their way to the NBA Finals.
The NBA Finals showed the world why we love the game, with the Milwaukee Bucks going against the Phoenix Suns for the championship title. The Suns took an early 2-0 lead in the series and "boy" did the Bucks respond, winning the next four games to snatch the victory. Their successful campaign run saw them secure their second championship title - their first since 1971.
The 2020-21 NBA season showcased some old rivals in action, while we saw the birth of possible new rivalries. This coming season will be no different. With pre-season starting on October 3 and the regular season on October 19, here's a look at 5 rivalries we are excited about going into the new season.
#5. Donovan Mitchell and Jamal Murray
It was a Donavan Mitchell versus Jamal Murray game in the 2020-21 NBA Western Conference quarterfinal fixture between the Denver Nuggets and Utah Jazz. Both players exhibited an explosive display of scoring at its finest.
Nuggets point guard Murray and Jazz shooting guard Mitchell are the only two players in the NBA to score more than 200 points in a postseason. With Mitchell leading with 254 points scored, and Murray behind with 221 points.
Mitchell landed the first punch, registering 57 points in Game 1 and Murray recorded 36 points to help the Nuggets secure the lead. Mitchell bossed the second and third games with 30 and 20 points respectively and was vital to the Jazz taking a 3-1 series lead at the end of Game 4.
Both players dueled 50s in Game 4, with Murray pulling a 3 at the buzzer to register 50 points, while Mitchell secured 51 points.
However, the Nuggets won the next three games to claim the series. Murray took the lead in scoring in Games 5 and 6, registering 42 and 50 points respectively. Both players and their teams went into Game 7 fatigued and stressed.
Although Mitchell scored more points, Murray made a late comeback to clinch victory for the Nuggets (80-78).
They are the only players to score 200+ points in the postseason.
With both players being only 23 years old, we are excited to see how this rivalry unfolds in the 2021-22 season and beyond.
#4. Dwight Howard and Nikola Jokic
The 2020-21 NBA season showed a glimpse into the formation of a rivalry between L.A. Lakers center Dwight Howard and Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic. This is one rivalry we expect to fester in the 2021-22 season.
On September 19, the Game 2 of the Nuggets series, Coach Vogel introduced Howard to the game off the bench and he was tasked with handling the Nuggets' big man, Jokic.
Howard was gliding through the court with a certain type of aura about him. The 3-time defensive player that we used to know was back.
You could tell he was having fun while handling the assignment that is Jokic. He was responsible for throwing Jokic off his rhythm and getting him in foul trouble in the game. The 8-time NBA All-Star featured for 16 minutes and recorded 13 points, 3 rebounds, 2 steals and 3 blocks in the game.
The Lakers' starting roster is quite uncertain, with Gasol being traded. If they go small, Anthony Davis will be called upon as the starting center but when they decide to go big, Dwight Howard or DeAndre Jordan will be fielded. The Howard/Jokic match-up in the 2021-22 NBA season is highly anticipated.