Only two games make up the Thursday night NBA schedule, but each comes with a bit of intrigue. The Rockets visit Madison Square Garden with Dwight Howard flanked by Linsanity, and the Oklahoma City Thunder aim to bounce back from a loss to the Clippers against the Golden State Warriors.
8 p.m. ET, TNT
Both teams are on the second nights of their back-to-backs, but it's the Knicks who are feeling good. So is former Knick Jeremy Lin, who has found some swagger in recent days.
What's to make of Jeremy Lin's return to New York? James Harden has struggled with a foot issue and sat out the Rockets' 123-117 overtime loss to the Sixers on Wednesday, but point Lin stepped into his place to score 34 points and drop 12 assists. Give Lin a sentimental return to Madison Square Garden, and maybe he'll perform well again.
The issue, however, has been the defense coming from the shooting guard spot. OK, it's not just the shooting guard spot.
Did the Knicks find themselves? New York could be playing with fire with their small lineup, but it didn't burn them against the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday. Mike Woodson's team actually won the rebounding battle by 10 thanks to strong gang rebounding from the guards and Andrea Bargnani putting together -- gasp -- a double-double. However, hanging with Al Horford and Paul Millsap is one thing. Winning the paint against Dwight Howard and Omer Asik is another.
Who mirrors whom? The Rockets seemed to put the Twin Towers look of Howard and Asik away in favor of spreading the floor with four shooters and a center. Meanwhile, the Knicks have little choice but to play with Carmelo Anthony at the power forward slot. Do the Rockets attempt to play big to gain an advantage that New York simply can't mirror? Should they even try?
Reading material: Defensive ineptness across the Houston roster is a point of concern, especially in the loss to the 76ers, writes The Dream Shake's Max Croes. Posting and Toasting's Seth Rosenthal saw, if anything, effort and smart basketball out of the Knicks in their win against Atlanta.
10:30 p.m., TNT
The Warriors and Thunder have relatively familiar rosters compared to a year ago, and that is part of why both are out to reasonably fast starts this season. Still, there are mountains to climb for both clubs as they fight for Western Conference superiority.
Who wins the turnover battle? Golden State has been one of the best passing teams this season -- it ranks No. 5 in the NBA -- but is coming off a high-assist, high-turnover game against the Detroit Pistons. On the other hand, Oklahoma City is known as an isolation-heavy team, but the Thunder are trying mighty hard to improve the ball movement, especially with Russell Westbrook finding his groove. For two fast-paced teams, limiting turnovers is the key. That also means taking good shots, which is true for the Thunder, especially.
How does Golden State attack Kevin Durant? It's easy to point out that the Warriors' biggest offseason move, the acquisition of Andre Iguodala, filled one of the few needs in Golden State -- that of an elite perimeter defender. But thus far, Iguodala has been more than that. He's played as a point forward, allowing Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson to play without the ball. Offensively, it's Iguodala's best fit of his career. He's having a darn good time, it seems.
But it still goes back to how well Iggy can handle Durant.
Can Steven Adams grow? The rookie from New Zealand earned his first start Wednesday in place of Kendrick Perkins, who didn't travel with the team because of a family death. Adams scored seven points and had four boards in 21 minutes, but was uncomfortable and out of position at times on the defensive end. He's shown promise, but he'll play a big part of the pick-and-roll defense that can't be poor against the Warriors shooters. Also, he'll be playing against Australian Andrew Bogut. Will he get the Kenneth Faried treatment?
Reading material: Welcome to Loud City looks at the pros and cons of Perkins versus Adams starting at center. And at Golden State of Mind, there's some worry about the Warriors bench unit, especially with the injury to backup point guard Toney Douglas.