Many NBA teams are 10 games into their 2013-14 schedules, but it seems that many are still feeling out where they belong on the league totem pole. Teams without much turnover, like the Portland Trail Blazers, didn't take long to find their stride. Others, like the Memphis Grizzlies and Los Angeles Clippers, are still tinkering under similar rosters but new head coaches.
Monday night includes six games, and it's the first and last that are catching our eyes.
The appetizer: Trail Blazers vs. Nets
7:30 p.m. ET
Portland has won six games in a row and visits a Brooklyn team hoping a few of its starters return after missing the last game because of injuries.
How healthy are the Nets? At 2-5 heading into a game Friday against the Suns, Brooklyn was desperate for a win. The Nets got one in Phoenix thanks to some heroics by guard Joe Johnson, but they got beat up in the process. Deron Williams (ankle), Kevin Garnett (ankle), Paul Pierce (groin) and Brook Lopez (ankle) finished the game with injuries but none played in a loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday. Williams and Lopez have been ruled out on Monday, while Garnett and Pierce could still play. Who ends up watching from the bench?
Reading material: NetsDaily writes on the rise of Mason Plumlee and what it means for veteran Reggie Evans, and Blazer's Edge reports on Portland's potential for redesigning its jerseys.
8 p.m. ET
Both the Nuggets and Thunder are just outside of the top 10 in terms of offense, and they're both in the upper third in pace. That makes for a competitive, high-octane back-and-forth game. Or, it means the best defensive team wins.
Who decides to play some defense? Oklahoma City is finding itself, and though it's coming off a 92-79 win against the lowly Milwaukee Bucks, the defense shined in the first game this year that Scott Brooks' team held a team under 90 points. Kendrick Perkins' return from a leave to be with his family helped, and so has the much-improved all-around play from Serge Ibaka. Denver, which according to Basketball-Reference is 23rd in defensive rating thus far, will likely have to play a semblance of defense to make it a game.
Reading material: Welcome to Loud City examines if the Thunder have a shot at landing Houston Rockets center Omer Asik in a trade, and Denver Stiffs calls for some Nuggets rotation players to knock down their open threes.
8 p.m. ET
The 5-3 Bulls are perfect at home and coming off a huge win against the previously undefeated Indiana Pacers.
Will the Bulls continue to roll behind Rose? Everything clicked for Chicago in a 110-94 win against Indiana. While the defensive effort was nothing surprising from a Tom Thibodeau-led squad, the performance by guard Derrick Rose was the most welcoming sign that the one-time MVP is simply going to take a little time to find himself. Rose scored 20 points and scored all put two of those behind the three-point arc. It wasn't a well-rounded game, but it's all about confidence at this point.
76ers vs. Mavericks
8:30 p.m. ET
What do you get when one of the most efficient offensive teams meets one of the worst defensive ones?
How do you attack on defense when there are so many things to attack? That's the question the Philadelphia 76ers will be asking themselves heading into the game against the Mavs on Monday night. Philadelphia is 5-6 and coming back down to earth fast with rookie Michael Carter-Williams injured and the defense coming off a game where it allowed 135 points to the New Orleans Pelicans, who shot 60.5 percent for an entire game.
Pelicans scored 67 points in 1st half vs 76ers. That's the most 1st-half points the Sixers have allowed since March 2010 vs Magic (68).— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 17, 2013
Reading material: Michael Levin of Liberty Ballers thinks 76ers fans should chill out and enjoy the surprisingly entertaining ride, and Mavs Moneyball previews the 76ers.
9 p.m. ET
Golden State and Utah clash for the second time in three days, but the Warriors will have to move forward without backup center Jermaine O'Neal, who sprained his knee and also injured his groin against the Jazz on Saturday.
How does Mark Jackson handle his frontcourt rotation? Immediately, the Warriors will be forced to play without O'Neal behind Andrew Bogut, and they'll do so against a team with more than enough size up front. Golden State handled the Jazz, 102-88, on Saturday with all five starters and bench forward Harrison Barnes scoring in double figures. Simply put, the Warriors have more offensive firepower than the Jazz, and it's the latter who will need to figure out how to make up for that.
Reading material: What's to make of Ty Corbin's tenure with the Jazz, and how does he fit in with the young roster? SLC Dunk asks the question. And Golden State of Mind takes a look at the Saturday meeting between the Jazz and Warriors.
The dessert: Grizzlies vs. Clippers
10:30 p.m. ET
The underperforming Memphis Grizzlies have one significant win to their 5-5 season thus far. The defeat of a pretty good Golden State squad is fine and dandy, but they need to progress toward improvement with a win against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Can the Grizz get back to their old ways? Many looked to the Clippers' 2-0 lead on the Grizzlies in the first round of the 2013 playoffs as a sign they had arrived. Then, quickly, Memphis imposed its trudging, playoff style of basketball for four games in a row to eliminate Los Angeles. Doc Rivers was hired to teach the Clips how to beat a team like the Grizzlies, but so far Chris Paul and company have only proven they've become a better offensive ball club. Meanwhile, Memphis has struggled to find itself on both ends of the court.