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Warriors-Rockets, Cavaliers-Celtics on NBA’s early opening night

FILE - Cavaliers forward LeBron James, right, reacts after scoring with guard Kyrie Irving, left, during the first half of Game 5 of basketball's NBA Finals in Oakland, Calif., Monday, June 12, 2017. The Cavaliers will have a chance at a Finals rematch against the Golden State Warriors on Christmas. (Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)
FILE - Cavaliers forward LeBron James, right, reacts after scoring with guard Kyrie Irving, left, during the first half of Game 5 of basketball's NBA Finals in Oakland, Calif., Monday, June 12, 2017. The Cavaliers will have a chance at a Finals rematch against the Golden State Warriors on Christmas. (Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)
By Brian Mahoney Associated Press

NEW YORK – The Golden State Warriors will open their title defense by hosting Houston in Chris Paul’s Rockets debut on Oct. 17, the NBA’s earliest opening night in 37 years.

Cleveland and Boston will play an Eastern Conference finals rematch earlier that night to begin the 2017-18 season, the league announced Thursday.

The Warriors and Cavaliers will play a Finals rematch on Christmas, the marquee game of the five-game holiday schedule.

The other Christmas games are:

Philadelphia, playing on Dec. 25 for the first time since 2001, at New York

Washington at Boston in the Celtics’ first Christmas home game ever

Houston at Oklahoma City in a matchup of MVP Russell Westbrook and runner-up James Harden

Minnesota at the Lakers and No. 2 pick Lonzo Ball in the nightcap

The NBA moved up the start of its 72nd regular season in hopes of creating more opportunities for players to rest without doing so during games. The Oct. 17 opener is the league’s earliest since the 1980-81 season began on Oct. 10.

National TV games during the opening week and the Christmas schedule were unveiled Thursday. The complete schedule is being finalized and will be announced next week.

The Oct. 18 schedule features the 76ers potentially debuting the last two No. 1 picks at Washington. Ben Simmons sat out all last season with a foot injury, and Philadelphia then grabbed guard Markelle Fultz in June after trading with Boston to move up to No. 1.

Jimmy Butler makes his Timberwolves debut in the nightcap of that ESPN doubleheader in San Antonio, while the Oct. 19 games feature Paul George and Oklahoma City hosting the Knicks.

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