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.