5 Things ... gives you some insight into some things to look out for on important nights in the NBA.
1. If This Doesn't Stop Them, It's Possible Nothing Will: The Lakers have been unstoppable. Unbeatable. Indestructible. And while they haven't played a back-to-back yet, and they've played the Clippers twice, they were supposed to get challenged by Houston, only to beat them into oblivion. So the Hornets game is intriguing, but really, the Lakers are in another stratosphere right now. Another level. Another dimension. Another conceptual realm filled with butterflies and unicorns for Pau Gasol to ride on. Yet, if there's any team that's not afraid of the Big Bad Bynum and Black Mamba, it's got to be New Orleans, which has already proven it can hang with the big boys. Tonight the Lakers defense, which has been using the strong-side overload faces a weapon that matches up perfectly against it in Chris Paul. Paul can find the open perimeter shooter, and from there, it's up to Peja Stojackovic and James Posey to knock 'em down. But in reality, the Lakers offense may be a bigger problem. Ranked third in efficiency, the Lakers are using a balanced attack from about seven different players to absolutely barrage their opponents. If the Hornets are going to have a chance they have almost no margin of error for turnovers and have to be able to challenge shots without picking up fouls, which no one's been able to do against the Lakers yet. Epic showdown tonight.
2. This Ain't Your Slightly Older Twin Brother's Hawks: We don't know what's going on with the Hawks. Did they eat their spinach? Is this what a six year rebuilding plan results in? Are we stoned? All of these things seem possible in the wake of Atlanta's 6-0 start, two wins of which have come without Josh Smith. Last night it was Al Horford putting his guns where his mouth is, laying down a line that would have made J-Smoove proud (6 blocks!). But tonight is a radically different squad from the disjointed Bulls team they faced last night. The Hawks are in Boston where they haven't been since losing Game 7 of their surprisingly close opening series against the Celtics. The Celtics are coming off an emotional come from behind win against Toronto, serving a reminder that this team simply is still the best in the East right now. Well, except for the Hawks. But they can take care of that little line of though tonigh at TD Bank. Getcha popcorn ready.
3. It. Is. Alive. For Now. Until It's Injured Again. :Greg Oden returns to the lineup tonight for Portland versus Miami in primetime on ESPN. You're going to think I'm crazy but this is actually a pretty good matchup. Brandon Roy has been inconsistent, waving between sheer brilliance and "meh." Meanwhile, Dwyane Wade 2.0 has begun the new campaign with increasing fire, and seems to be gaining trust in his teammates. Michael Beasley is progressing, and you can almost feel a breakout game coming, and Udonis Haslem is working well at the five. Meanwhile, the Blazers are hot right now, riding a 3-game win streak that's been good for a team that was starting to question itself. The X-factor tonight is Oden. All eyes will be on him to see if he rebounds from injury or goes back on the shelf, which will set off major alarms. If Oden comes out and plays like he's been hyped to, then Blazers fans will be pre-ordering 2011 championship dustbins. Either way, expect Oden's perfromance to night, even be it mediocre, to get major attention.
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4. We're Not Saying The Ship Is Sinking. But There's A Reason We're Holding A Life-Vest.: Toronto, fresh off a swift kick to the genitals from the defending champs, are at home tonight taking on a Sixers club that while may not be drowning, can definitely taste seawater. The Sixers are not playing well in almost any phase right now, and need a big win to get their spirits back to where they need to be. Chris Bosh versus Elton Brand is the matchup to watch, but if the Sixers are going to have a shot, Thaddeus Young needs to take advantage of the Toronto perimeter defense and attack, attack, attack. Another loss to an Eastern Conference powerhouse and Sixer fans are pushing the panic button, a whole eight games into the season.
5. We See Your Crazy Pills And Raise You Robin Lopez: Houston takes on Phoenix tonight in a tough matchup for both teams. Houston's been shooting terribly, and trying to recover from the drubbing they took from the Lakers. Phoenix struggled with Memphis in their last outing, but have a night off to prepare. Both teams have advantages, but perhaps is the biggest comes if Houston coach Rick Adelman decides to let Luis Scola have a go defensively at Amare Stoudemire. As we used to say in my cushy, middle-class neighborhood, that could get ugly. If the Rockets want to win, Yao Ming has to step up and be the superstar they pay him to be. Ron Artest, AKA Crazy Pills, helps, and T-Mac can have a good game now and then, but Yao has to be good for them to win, and he hasn't been. He has a good track record against the Big Cactus, though, so maybe this late game on ESPN will be a classic.
Five Things to Keep an Eye on in the NBA Tonight, Including CP3 Versus Kobe Bryant originally appeared on NBA FanHouse on Wed, 12 Nov 2008 18:36:00 EST . Please see our terms for use of feeds.