The Wednesday night NBA schedule tips off with an Eastern Conference rivalry that has only grown more intense. The Indiana Pacers will try to out-Thibodeau the Tom Thibodeau-led Chicago Bulls behind an ever-efficient Paul George.
The appetizers: Clippers vs. Magic
7 p.m. ET
So that's what the Clippers were talking about. Not only does Doc Rivers hope to make Los Angles a pesky defensive team -- still a work in progress -- but he also has openly wished for more explosive offense from his new team. That happened in a 137-118 win against the Houston Rockets on Monday. Can the new spread offense that relies upon J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley as much as Blake Griffin and Chris Paul continue rolling against the Orlando Magic?
Jacque Vaughn's young team is clearly the underdog, but at 2-2 on the year, the Magic bring an intriguing package of size on the interior and length on the perimeter. Oh, and they are coming off a 107-86 victory against the Brooklyn Nets. Not too shabby.
Reading material: Orlando Pinstriped Post's Tyler Lashbrook believes the Magic are scrappy enough to take them out of the realm of the hard-to-watch league bottom-dwellers. Steve Perrin of Clips Nation bullet-points the game's storylines, big and small.
Wizards vs. 76ers
7 p.m. ET
A few weeks ago, this could be a game to pass on, but now it includes a young, 3-1 Sixers team that's taking the tanking talk to heart. Philadelphia's opponent, the Washington Wizards, have a fan base as close to panic as could be through only three games.
Washington is certainly reeling without Nene, who could return Wednesday, and struggling because of a porous defense that in its last outing allowed the Miami Heat to hit 53 percent from the field and 41 percent from three-point range. John Wall got a max contract extension to lead, and he can start by controlling out-of-control rookie point guard Michael Carter-Williams, who is averaging 20 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.3 steals per game for Philly. Slow 'em down, John.
Reading material: Bullets Forever takes a peek at why shooting guard Bradley Beal is struggling, and Michael Levin of Liberty Ballers writes on the injured rookie Nerlens Noel's development of his jump shot.
The main course: Pacers vs. Bulls
7 p.m. ET, ESPN
Who can be the stopper of the LeBron-stopper? Bulls guard Jimmy Butler and Pacers forward Paul George may not match up on both ends of the court because Butler is starting at shooting guard alongside small forward Luol Deng. Still, George will be an intriguing matchup for Chicago, which has struggled defensively so far this year. Meanwhile, George has only improved upon seemingly his only flaw -- scoring efficiency. Tuesday against Detroit, George scored 31 on only 18 shot attempts. Maybe because of plays like this.
Will Chicago shoot the ball into the basket? The Bulls don't exactly have the best of shooting teams, and that makes Indiana's job all the more easy. One of the best three-point defenses and the league-leader thus far by holding opponents to 37.9 percent shooting -- yow! -- will make life difficult on Chicago. Yes, Carlos Boozer will be relied upon to continue scoring at his 22.3 point-per-game clip, and Luol Deng or Derrick Rose will need to hit some tough shots.
How does Derrick Rose get going? George Hill's hip injury makes him a game-time decision against the Bulls, but even if he's not able, backup C.J. Watson has experience checking Rose. Rose likely won't be able to score easily at the basket with Roy Hibbert on patrol, so his supposedly improved jumper will need to be on target.
Reading material: Ricky O'Donnell writes on what is a very real rivalry between the Bulls and Pacers, and Indy Cornrows chronicles Ian Mahimni's special birthday.
8 p.m. ET
For different reasons, the Pelicans and Grizzlies are trying to find themselves early on this year. The game should pose some interesting matchups, especially because New Orleans coach Monty Williams has a plethora of guards at his fingertips. In fact, in the Pelican's 104-98 loss to the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday, he went with a four-guard lineup down the stretch, playing Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon, Brian Roberts and Anthony Morrow with forward Anthony Davis.
Memphis coach Dave Joerger could counter with a dual point guard lineup of Mike Conley and Jerryd Bayless, or the Grizzlies could keep the Pelicans at bay by continuing with their traditional, big lineup. It'll be a game of finding identities, or at least, a game of forcing some thought of an identity on the opponent.
Reading material: At Grizzly Bear Blues, the biggest issues about Memphis' 2-2 record are in regards to poor defense and turnover issues. And The Bird Writes considers Williams' questionable personnel decisions and whether he should be on the hot seat.
Warriors vs. Timberwolves
8 p.m. ET
The Minnesota Timberwolves have already roughed up a known Western Conference contender in the Oklahoma City Thunder, but in their fifth game of the year, they have a shot at making a statement against a different playoff power.
Golden State visits the Target Center for what should be a matchup including two of the least-talked-about offseason moves of the year. Kevin Martin, who left Oklahoma City, is a 20-point per game scorer thanks to his third-wheel status with Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio. And former Denver Nuggets swingman Andre Iguodala is finding equal success for the same reason -- he's a playing with better talent on his new team.
Reading material: Canis Hoopus breaks down Golden State's ridiculous shooting numbers with words and a very green shot chart.
Suns vs. Spurs
8:30 p.m. ET
Not many would have guessed these two teams would meet with 3-1 records, but that's the case. Phoenix is coming off a 37-point fourth-quarter that did in the Pelicans on Tuesday night, while San Antonio is also coming off a Tuesday game, a 102-94 win against the Denver Nuggets.
Suns point guard Goran Dragic is likely out with a sprained ankle, but his absence has slid Eric Bledsoe to the point guard spot, where he's excelled. How the 23-year-old handles Tony Parker, and vice versa, will be the thing to watch. And like Bledsoe individually, the Suns' general athleticism might test an older Spurs team.
Reading material: Bright Side of the Suns' game preview notes the Suns' surprising defensive success under first-year coach Jeff Hornacek. Pounding the Rock calls the battle between Miles Plumlee and Tiago Splitter at center the matchup to watch.
The dessert: Mavericks vs. Thunder
9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
The Thunder are working at full strength with Russell Westbrook back, but Scott Brooks' team still has a lot of question marks without a dominant third scorer. Oklahoma City hosts the Mavericks, whose reshuffled roster appears to be melding together well enough for a 3-1 record.
How many Dirk-fades does Kevin Durant pull out against the Mavs? It appears we know why Kevin Durant has admitted to stealing Dirk Nowitzki's one-legged fadeaways.
Kevin Durant said today at shootaround Dirk is "arguably [his] favorite player in the league."— Royce Young (@royceyoung) November 6, 2013
What type of ball is Monta ball on Wednesday? Monta Ellis' brief tenure with the Mavericks has met its ups and downs early. He has two games shooting above 64 percent from the field and two shooting below 37 percent. Which one is Monta ball? Or is that erraticism the whole point of Monta ball?
Can the Thunder get three or more players in double-figures? So far this season, the Thunder have struggled to spread the scoring around enough to get one role player hot. Kevin Durant has scored in double-figures in all three games and Reggie Jackson has done so twice. Westbrook added 21 in his return in Oklahoma City's 103-96 win against Phoenix on Sunday, but after that Thabo Sefolosha and Jeremy Lamb hit double-digits once each.
7 p.m. ET
Both teams sit in the now poorly regarded space between blatantly tanking and believing they're playoff material. Toronto and Charlotte are both 2-2 but in the bottom-5 in the league pace-wise, according to Basketball-Reference.com.
7:30 p.m. ET
It's a battle to not be 0-5. Maybe it'll be entertaining because of the desperation involved.
Reading material: Celtics Blog believes a key for Boston is to get in transition, a good idea against a big Jazz team. A good bit of news in Jazz-land: Alec Burks is showing promise this year, writes SLC Dunk.
8 p.m. ET
Cleveland is coming off an impressive victory against a previously hot Minnesota squad, and the Bucks are trying to find answers under first-year coach Larry Drew. Milwaukee is 1-2 and is not rebounding well -- they lost that battle, 60-38, against Toronto last time out -- which is even more frustrating for a team playing good defense thus far.
Reading material: Brew Hoop writes about how the Bucks' defensive rebounding issues are hurting the offense, and Fear the Sword wonders if first overall pick Anthony Bennett should get some D-League run.