Minnesota Timberwolves (4-1) vs. Chicago Bulls (3-2)
Minnesota was not supposed to race out like this without Kevin Love or Ricky Rubio available. Winning four out of the first five games was not supposed to bein the cards. The Timberwolves though have banded together behind the rugged play of Nikola Pekovic and some surprising play from Luke Ridnour to get off to a good start.
Of course, just one week into the season it is hard to tell what teams are "for real" and what teams are taking advantage of weak schedules or teams in transition.
What category is Minnesota in? That may yet be determined. The Timberwolves had a big battle with the Pacers on Friday night that ended with Chase Budinger cutting backdoor past Gerald Green for a game-winning layup. That game showed both a lot of skill in building the lead late and then a lot of resolve as George Hill seemed to will the Pacers back into it. Give credit to Alexey Shved and Andrei Kirilenko along with Nikola Pekovic for pulling that one out.
The Bulls should be a different story.
Chicago is in sync defensively and is much more experienced than many of the teams Minnesota has beaten already. So this should be a nice test for the Timberwolves.
Other Storylines to Watch
-The Bulls have needed offense with Derrick Rose gone and Luol Deng has taken on the offensive mantle. He is averaging 18.0 points per game and shooting 46.6 percent from the floor.
-The Wolves meanwhile feature some supremely balanced scoring. No player averages more than 14 points per game with Pekovic leading the team with 13.8 points per game.
Tonight's Other Games
Philadelphia 76ers (3-2) vs. Toronto Raptors (1-4)
You notice that the NBA's headband wearers were sporting nifty red, white and blue headbands to celebrate Veterans' Day weekend? Do not expect to see them tonight in Toronto though. The NBA has asked the 76ers not to wear them for the game up in Canada. Spencer Hawes is not happy about it, obviously.
Washington Wizards (0-4) vs. Indiana Pacers (2-4)
Brian Shaw is getting pulled into the Lakers coaching search since many thought him to be the heir apparent to Phil Jackson in Los Angeles. Shaw though said he is perfectly happy as the associate head coach in Indiana. He was passed over in Orlando anyway for that head coaching job. Los Angeles has not reached out ot him yet.
Dallas Mavericks (4-2) vs. Charlotte Bobcats (1-3)
The Bobcats may be without Michael Kidd-Gilchrist soon after he made contact with a referee during a scuffle with the Hornets on Friday night. MKG has averaged only 9.0 points per game in four games as he gets used to the NBA game. Obviously, he still has a lot to learn about NBA physicality.
Detroit Pistons (0-6) vs. Houston Rockets (2-3)
Kevin McHale is taking an immediate leave of absence from his team for personal reasons. Former Oklahoma and Indiana head coach Kelvin Sampson will take over. That is a long way from his firing at Indiana in 2008 for making phone calls that violated NCAA rules.
Boston Celtics (2-3) vs. Milwaukee Bucks (3-1)
Jeff Green has gotten off to a slow start after coming back from open heart surgery that caused him to miss all of last season. He is averaging only 7.0 points per game and shooting 41.2 percent. Obviously though it will take some tiem for Green to get back up to speed. Doc Rivers though is confident it will happen. It should happen sooner rather than later as Boston has tripped up some at the start of the season.
Phoenix Suns (3-3) vs. Utah Jazz (2-4)
How do the Suns follow a 26-point comeback? That will be the question they have to answer when they travel to Utah. Phoenix better have enough gas in the tank to play in this one because Utah remains a difficult team to handle with its strong post play and commitment to defensive principles. Luckily, the Suns relied mostly on their guards to make the comeback. Marcin Gortat and Luis Scola need to carry the load a bit here for Phoenix to win.
San Antonio Spurs (5-1) vs. Portland Trail Blazers (2-3)
Does LaMarcus Aldridge stay at the elbow and have the offense run through him in the high post or does he move down to the low post? Aldridge has openly questioned his role in the offense right now and seems like he wants the ball a little bit closer to the basket. This game may not quite be the time to do that with Tim Duncan and the Spurs in town. But the Trail Blazers have to find a way to get Aldridge the ball in place where he can be most effective.
Denver Nuggets (3-3) vs. Golden State Warriors (3-3)
Kenneth Faried took the NBA by storm last year in his rookie year. The unheralded second round pick was a "Manimal" on the glass. This year… not so much. Faried is posting 13.2 points and 9.7 rebounds per game, but so much more was expected from him. There are suggestions coming out of Denver that Faried let the success get to his head and it is affecting his play and effort this year. Time to prove them wrong again.