Atlanta Hawks (6-4) vs. Charlotte Bobcats (6-4)
What is It old you the matchup above had Playoff implications and meant something in the Southeast Division? OK, so maybe it is too early to be talking about such things considering it is still late November and so many things can and will change before the Playoffs come into sight.
Still, Atlanta and Charlotte fighting for something meaningful in the Southeast Division in late November?
No, neither team will probably sniff the Southeast Division lead at the end of the season. The Miami Heat appear to have that on complete lockdown. Still, the Bobcats and Hawks have gotten off to surprisingly nice starts.
Charlotte is one win away from tying last year's mark for the entire season. There is a new atittude about Charlotte and a new confidence instilled in this franchise. It is more than a new font and new jersey. Kemba Walker is playing extremely well in his sophomore season and the Bobcats are getting players to step up rather than fold as they may have last year.
On the other side, Atlanta is surviving despite Josh Smith struggling to score much. Al Horford looks healthy and solid. And even with losing Joe Johnson, the Hawks seem destined to stay at about the same place and compete for a middle seed in the Eastern Conference.
Of course, it is still early. There will be times when both of these teams look exactly how they are expected to look. And there will be plenty of times when they look like they could surprise and sneak into the postseason.
There is a long way to go in the season. But it sure is nice having these two teams playing well and at least pretending to pressure Miami.
Other Storylines to Watch
-Mike Dunlap has been a big part of the transformation in Charlotte. Kemba Walker says the one thing he likes about his new coach is that Dunlap is frank with his players and that he allows his players to be frank with him. This open atmosphere has brought out a lot of fire and a desire to win from both players and coaches in this hot start.
-Al Horford missed most of last season with a torn pectoral, but he has shown no ill effects from that injury through 10 games. Horford is averaging 15.4 points and 8.9 rebounds per game as he has returned to his All-Star form.
Tonight's Other Games
Cleveland Cavaliers (3-8) vs. Orlando Magic (4-7)
The Cavaliers are still learning how to play without Kyrie Irving. Fans have latched onto Jeremy Pargo after he had a big performance in an improbable win over Philadelphia on Wednesday. The question is whether Pargo can duplicate that performance and shine again for the Cavaliers in Irving's stead.
Oklahoma City Thunder (9-3) vs. Boston Celtics (6-6)
For the first time since he was traded, Kendrick Perkins makes his return to the TD Garden to play in front of the Boston fans that completely embraced him and were extremely upset that he was traded. It is also a reunion for Jeff Green, who was part of that Perkins trade. The fond memories will have to be put aside quickly as this should be a big game between conference titans.
Los Angeles Clippers (8-3) vs. Brooklyn Nets (6-4)
In another story about the intersection of sports and pop culture, Chris Paul says Nets minority owner Jay-Z is "like a big brother to me." Paul makes his only trip to his big brother's new house tonight as the Nets are home from their West Coast trip.
Toronto Raptors (3-9) vs. Detroit Pistons (2-10)
Give Dwane Casey a rare win over the NBA. The Raptors challenged a call made at the end of their loss to the Bobcats on Wednesday. The NBA admitted their officials made a mistake. Casey was happy to receive the apology and is ready to move on.
San Antonio Spurs (9-3) vs. Indiana Pacers (6-7)
You know you have a great franchise program when players know arguing for more playing time is a moot point. Matt Bonner has been a part of the Spurs for a long time. He is not getting minutes right now, but he knows his opportunity will come eventually. Now is not the time for selfishness though. And this is not the team.
Los Angeles Lakers (6-6) vs. Memphis Grizzlies (8-2)
#2Gasols1Win. Yes, Pau Gasol is very excited about his matchup with his little brother, Marc and a return to his old stomping grounds in Memphis. This is always a pretty intriguing matchup anyway because the Lakers and Grizzlies are two of the better teams in the West. Los Angeles is still getting used to the Mike D'Antoni offense.
New York Knicks (8-2) vs. Houston Rockets (4-7)
There was a lot of talk about Jeremy Lin coming out of New York following his departure and major free agent contract from the Rockets. Now the Knicks get to see him up close for the first time and judge that "ridiculous" contract up close.
Golden State Warriors (7-5) vs. Denver Nuggets (6-6)
Nobody seems to be noticing that the Warriors are over .500 and playing pretty well. This despite Andrew Bogut being hurt. This despite Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson going through a pair of coll shooting spells. Maybe we need to start thinking Golden State is a good team?
Sacramento Kings (3-8) vs. Utah Jazz (6-6)
The Jazz may have finally found someone to take Raja Bell off their hands! The Lakers are supposedly interesting in acquiring the veteran guard for his defensive prowess. Utah would just like to get rid of him. Would be interesting to see what the Jazz would get in return.
New Orleans Hornets (3-7) vs. Phoenix Suns (5-7)
The Hornets will still likely be without Anthony Davis for this game as he returns from a stress reaction in his left ankle. Ryan Anderson has done well in his stead as he is playing more power forward now and averaging nearly 17 points per game.
Minnesota Timberwolves (5-5) vs. Portland Trail Blazers (5-6)
This game was supposed to be Brandon Roy's triumphant return to Portland after being forced into retirement. Instead the former Trail Blazers guard could be facing a forced retirement again. His latest setbackw ith his knee has doctors very worried that he should have a knee replacement which would pretty much end his career for good.