While Chicago and Indiana try to overcome injuries to their top players, the Milwaukee Bucks have gotten out to the early lead in the Central Division.
They'll look to get off to their best eight-game start in 11 years by earning just their second victory in the last 13 meetings with the visiting New Orleans Hornets on Saturday night.
Milwaukee (5-2) had one of its better performances of the young season Wednesday, leading by as many as 32 points in a 99-85 victory over Indiana. The Bucks find themselves ahead of the division's projected top two as Chicago plays without former MVP Derrick Rose and Indiana continues on without star forward Danny Granger.
"We played some of our best defense in the first half and some of our best offense as well," coach Scott Skiles said. "We moved the ball well. Overall, it was a very well-played game."
Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis scored 16 points each while Samuel Dalembert added 14 for the Bucks, who had a season-low six turnovers after committing a season-high 23 in their previous game.
"We realize that as a team we just needed to come in and be the aggressor from the beginning," Dalembert said.
Jennings had another solid effort after scoring a season-best 33 points and dishing out eight assists in Monday's win over Philadelphia that followed a 1-for-11 shooting performance in a loss to Boston last Saturday.
"We just got going and we didn't look back," Jennings said.
Milwaukee hasn't won six of its first eight games since taking seven of eight on its way to a 9-1 start to the 2001-02 campaign, but its recent history against New Orleans suggests it will have a tough time reaching that mark this season.
The Bucks have dropped 11 of the last 12 meetings and Jennings has shot 34.7 percent in five career games against the Hornets.
New Orleans, though, trailed by as many as 34 points in a 110-95 loss to Oklahoma City on Friday. Ryan Anderson scored a team-high 15 points off the bench and rookie Anthony Davis finished with eight points and a season high-tying 11 rebounds while shooting a dismal 4 of 14 for the Hornets (3-4), who have lost three of four.
New Orleans and Oklahoma City were involved in a shouting match at the end of the first half, though coach Monty Williams downplayed it.
"We're men, but you also have to be man enough to admit that we do goofy things when we compete," Williams said. "So we were just out there kind of yelling back and forth. Basically they were just kicking our butts."
Despite not having shooting guard Eric Gordon through most likely the end of December, the Hornets are off to a much better start than last season, when they began 4-23 even after winning their first two games.
General manager Dell Demps was awarded a multiyear contract extension Friday after making key offseason moves - including drafting Davis and Austin Rivers - to improve the club.
Demps traded Hakim Warrick to Charlotte for Matt Carroll on Tuesday, though Carroll has not reported to the team and may be bought out.
"We'll have a resolution on that in the coming days," Demps said.
Jennings scored 18 points but shot only 7 of 21 as New Orleans won 92-89 at Milwaukee in the most recent meeting Feb. 15.