The quest to reach the playoffs for the first time in two seasons won’t be an easy challenge for the Dallas Mavericks.
And a lot of it may be determined by what happens in the first month of the season.
The NBA released its schedule for the 2013-14 season on Tuesday with the Mavs opening their campaign Oct. 30 at home against the Atlanta Hawks. And to make things tough for Dallas, the Mavs will play a season-high-tying 17 games in November, which is also the same number of games they play in January.
The Mavs play 16 back-to-backs next season — six in November — and have 11 games in November against teams that were playoff participants last season, including a Nov. 15 contest in Miami against the two-time defending NBA champion Heat.
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In addition, the Mavs will have six games televised nationally on NBA TV, five on ESPN and three on TNT.
Here are the top 10 Mavs’ games to watch this season:
Oct. 30 vs. Atlanta: This is both the regular season and home opener for the overhauled Mavs, who will have nine new players. Obviously hungry after missing out on the playoffs last season for the first time since 2000, the Mavs will have three new starters to go with Dirk Nowitzki and Shawn Marion.
Nov. 1 at Houston: The Mavs’ first road game of the season has them going right down Interstate 45 to face one of the NBA’s biggest challenges in the Rockets. This is also the Mavs’ first chance to see center Dwight Howard, who last month turned down a chance to play for Dallas and instead signed a free-agent contract with the Rockets.
Nov. 5 vs. LA Lakers: The Lakers are always a big road draw because they’re the Lakers. But this game may take on new importance since it isn’t known if perennial All-Star guard Kobe Bryant will be available after undergoing off-season surgery for a torn Achilles tendon.
Nov. 6 at Oklahoma City: The Red River rivalry always bears mentioning because — from front door to front door — Oklahoma City is the closest NBA city to Dallas. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are arguably the best 1-2 duo in the league.
Nov. 15 at Miami: This is the first meeting of the season between the teams that have combined to capture the last three NBA titles. The Mavs beat LeBron James and Miami in the 2011 Finals, and the Heat collected the past two NBA championships.
Dec. 26 vs. San Antonio: The Spurs narrowly missed winning their fifth NBA title last season when they lost to Miami in seven games after blowing a 3-2 series lead. Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili are back again to continue their Drive for Five.
Dec. 28 at Chicago: Dallas hits the road to face guard Derrick Rose for the first time since the 2011-12 season. Rose missed all of last season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in a playoff game in April of 2012. The former MVP claims that he’s the game’s best player.
Jan. 3 vs. LA Clippers: The new-look Clippers make their first visit to American Airlines Center. Since last season, the Clippers have a new coach (Doc Rivers) and some pretty good new players (Jared Dudley, Darren Collison and J.J. Redick) as they hope to be a serious contender for the NBA title.
Jan. 5 vs. New York: This could be Carmelo Anthony’s final game in Dallas as a member of the Knicks. Anthony becomes a free agent next summer, and there’s a very good chance the Mavs will make a run at signing him.
Jan. 24 at Brooklyn: Former Mavs point guard Jason Kidd and the revamped Nets face the Mavs for the first time. Kidd is in his first season as a head coach, and the Nets added former Celtics Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry to an already potent lineup.