Boston Celtics (3-3) vs. Chicago Bulls (4-2)
Echoes of that epic 2009 first round Playoff series still resound whenever these two teams get together. Sure Ben Gordon has moved on, Derrick Rose is hurt and Ray Allen is in Miami. These are two completely different teams than those. And in Celtics-Bulls lore, Jordan's 63-point effort in 1985 resonates a lot more.
These are still two great defensive teams. Teams that will be competing for Playoff positioning come March and April and likely competing directly against each other for home court positioning. This should have all the intrigue you would want from a Celtics-Bulls matchup.
There are ancillary issues to deal with though.
Boston is struggling right now with a .500 record. The Celtics have not quite rounded into form and they seem apt to lose at any moment. But with Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo it always seems like it is a matter of time before the Celtics get back to that customary level.
Watch the defense in this game obviously. Both teams are built on that end of the floor and that is where both teams will have to find their success this season.
Other Storylines to Watch
-It is hard to figure out exactly why Boston is struggling this year. Rajon Rondo is averaging 13 assists per game, Paul Pierce is up around 20 points per game and Kevin Garnett provides a solid presence. The Celtics have always been an average rebounding team, but perhaps the 4.5 rebounds per game differential is something to be concerned with.
-With Kirk Hinrich out of the lineup, Nate Robinson has stepped in and the former Celtic will start tonight for Chicago. On the year, Robinson is averaging 11.5 points per game on 49.2 percent shooting.
Tonight's Other Games
Utah Jazz (3-4) vs. Toronto Raptors (1-5)
DeMar DeRozan is still getting used to the idea of his new contract extension and his long-term future in Toronto. That deal got some criticism because DeRozan has not always lived up to expectations. So far this year, DeRozan is averaging 18.0 points per game while shooting 43.5 percent from the floor. Obviously he is a gifted scorer but still has plenty of growing to do.
Milwaukee Bucks (3-2) vs. Philadelphia 76ers (4-2)
Injuries to big men have plagued both of these teams so far this season. The big news out of Philadelphia is that Andrew Bynum will be out likely until late December or early January, delaying his Philadelphia debut. For Milwaukee, the team is missing Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Drew Gooden.
Oklahoma City Thunder (5-2) vs. Detroit Pistons (0-7)
It is Russell Westbrook's birthday. And if he celebrates today like he celebrated yesterday against the Cavaliers — 27 points, 10 assists, six rebounds — the Pistons could be in trouble. The fact Detroit remains the only team in the league without a win is also a pretty bad omen.
Miami Heat (5-2) vs. Houston Rockets (3-3)
With Mike D'Antoni back in the NBA, Jeremy Lin expressed his excitement and appreciation for his former coach. D'Antoni gave Lin his big break in New York last year and enabled him to sign his big deal in Houston. So far, Lin has struggled some averaging 12.3 points per game on 37.3 percent shooting.
Minnesota Timberwolves (4-2) vs. Dallas Mavericks (4-3)
Chase Budinger had a nice start to the season, but now Budinger will be on the shelf for a very long time. Budinger suffered a lateral meniscus tear in his left knee Friday in Chicago. This is a big loss for a team already hit hard by injuries. Yet, the Wolves have consistently found ways to win in the early goings of the season even with Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio out.
Denver Nuggets (4-3) vs. Phoenix Suns (3-4)
After a rocky start to the season that saw blowout losses at Philadelphia and Orlando, Denver has seemed to right the ship. At 4-3, the Nuggets are still learning how to play together but much more clearly have a sense of how to do it now. This is still a team that is extremely balanced and can get out on the break if you are not careful as a defense.
Atlanta Hawks (2-3) vs. Portland Trail Blazers (2-4)
Defense and bench production are two things Portland is examining and working through in the early part of the season. Portland has allowed opponents to shoot better than 50 percent in five of the last six games. That is obviously not a sustainable way to play and get wins.