Heat visit Celtics in NBA opener, Lakers on Christmas

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NEW YORK (AP) - The NBA will open its season with a battle of Big Threes, then offer up the new-look Miami Heat against Kobe Bryant and the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers on Christmas Day.

The Heat will debut their All-Star trio of Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh at Boston on Oct. 26 against the defending Eastern Conference champion Celtics, who are led by their veteran group of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen.

The Lakers will host Houston in the other opening-night game on TNT, the NBA announced Tuesday. The Rockets hope to have Yao Ming back in the lineup after he missed last season with a foot injury.

The Christmas schedule will again feature five games, highlighted by the return of the Heat-Lakers matchup that was regularly played Dec. 25 after Los Angeles traded Shaquille O’Neal to Miami in 2004.

Boston will visit Orlando on Christmas for a rematch of the East finals. The remainder of that day’s schedule includes Chicago at New York, Denver at Oklahoma City, and Portland at Golden State.

The full NBA schedule will be released Aug. 10, but the league unveiled its nationally televised games for the opening week of the season, Christmas and Martin Luther King Jr. Days during an NBA TV special on Tuesday.

There was more heightened interest in the schedule this season because of the attention on the Heat, who got James and Bosh to join Wade last month. James‘ return to Cleveland, surely to be a spectacle because of Cavaliers fans’ anger over the Ohio native’s departure, did not land on one of the marquee dates.

Orlando gets two high-profile games in the first four days of the season. The Magic host No. 1 overall pick John Wall and Washington on Oct. 28 to open their new Amway Center, then travel to Miami the next night for the first of four meetings with their state and Southeast Division rival Heat.

The Magic and Celtics will meet again on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The Lakers will host the rising Thunder, who took them to six tough games last season in the first round, later that night.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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