Only two series thus far in the 2013 NBA playoffs are knotted at one game apiece, but another Western Conference opening-round clash is still anyone's to win as postseason action continues.
The line is very fine in this forthcoming trio of series, and it will be interesting to see how the underdogs handle their homestands—with the opportunity to obtain a commanding two-game edge. The Memphis Grizzlies, meanwhile, look to claw out of a 2-0 hole against the Los Angeles Clippers at the FedEx Forum.
Here are projections for the most tightly contested series to date with respect to who will ultimately win based on the opening two showdowns.
Note: For the complete NBA playoffs bracket, check out ESPN.com.
(3) Denver Nuggets vs. (6) Golden State Warriors
Apparently, not having All-Star power forward David Lee isn't as much of a problem for the Warriors as was expected.
After Lee tore his hip flexor in the opening loss, the ridiculous sharpshooting backcourt of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson went off in the Pepsi Center in Game 2.
The pair combined for 11 three-pointers, and Curry dished out 13 assists to just one turnover in addition to his game-high 30 points in a 131-117 triumph. Sixth man Jarrett Jack was also thrust into the starting lineup, and gave 43 outstanding minutes, scoring 26 of his own.
First-round draft pick Harrison Barnes also stepped up in a big way by pouring in 24 points—far exceeding his average of 9.2 during the regular season.
It is important to realize just how deep this Nuggets team is, though—and to take Golden State's silly 64.6 shooting percentage in Game 2 with a grain of salt.
The Warriors won't light it up like that again, and considering Denver lost just three home games prior to Tuesday's clash, it's unwise to bet on Golden State without one of its premier players.
As it turns out, Curry himself may not even be in the lineup. Nursing a sprained ankle, Curry told the San Jose Mercury News' Tim Kawakami that he wouldn't be able to play if there were a game on Thursday. In all likelihood, the Warriors star will be in the lineup on Friday, but it's definitely a red flag.
Having said that, the Nuggets were an Andre Miller buzzer-beater away from dropping two consecutive contests on their home court.
This is a young Warriors team playing with supreme confidence, about to come home to one of the loudest crowds in the league. Unfortunately, the stunning turnaround orchestrated by second-year coach Mark Jackson will fall short if Curry isn't healthy enough to drive the Golden State attack.
It's clearly possible to overcome the loss of Lee—Curry is a different story. Don't count out the Warriors and Curry just yet, but his ailing ankle is a big deal.
Prediction: Denver in six.
(4) Brooklyn Nets vs. (5) Chicago Bulls
Tonight's contest in Chicago will go a long way in determining the outcome of this series, because if the Bulls can gain a 2-1 edge, all the pressure shifts to the Nets to avoid a 3-1 hole.
The Bulls got smashed in Game 1 by 17 points, but were able to somehow gather the resolve in Game 2 to notch a victory at the Barclays Center, mainly thanks to an outstanding defensive effort in the third quarter. Tom Thibodeau's squad held the high-octane Nets offense to just 11 points in that 12-minute span to key a 90-82 win.
Keeping teams below the 85-point plateau has been historically significant to Chicago's playoff success, as the team's official Twitter page points out:
Chicago Bulls @chicagobulls
Chicago held #Nets to 82 points in Game 2. In team playoff history, #Bulls are 50-9 when keeping opponent at 85 points or less. #NETSvBULLS4/25/2013, 9:00:40 PM
It's incredible how resilient this Bulls team is, having weathered the entire season without injured superstar point guard Derrick Rose.
A prospective matchup between him and Deron Williams would have been amazing to watch, but Brooklyn's floor general was nevertheless stymied in Game 2, sinking just 1-of-9 shots from the floor.
An extremely balanced scoring effort allowed the Bulls to steal one on the road, with five players in double-figures but no one scoring more than Luol Deng's 15 points.
With all the star power on the Nets roster, the Bulls have a chance to win by playing fundamentally sound, team-oriented basketball.
However, look for Brooklyn—and especially Williams—to bounce back from its disappointing showing in Game 2 to take one of the next two contests in the United Center. It will take seven games, but the Nets will prevail thanks to superior offense.
Prediction: Brooklyn in seven.
(4) Los Angeles Clippers vs. (5) Memphis Grizzlies
This is a rematch of an opening-round series from last year in which the Clippers advanced in a hard-fought, seven-game ordeal.
Although L.A. is slightly better this season and hold a 2-0 advantage in the series thus far, don't count out the resilient Grizzles, who play the league's best defense in terms of points per game allowed.
It took some incredible heroics from Clippers PG Chris Paul to allow Los Angeles to escape with a 93-91, buzzer-beating win at Staples Center in the second game of the series.
The best point guard on the floor for the majority of the evening, though, was Memphis' Mike Conley, Jr., who utilized his blinding quickness to consistently get the best of Paul. Conley scored a game-high 28 points and dished out nine assists, matching Paul's total.
If the Grizzlies can get that kind of play out of Conley at home along with the typical production from their formidable frontcourt of Zach Randolph and Defensive Player of the Year Marc Gasol, things should tighten up.
There's no doubt that Memphis is primed to avenge its defeat in last year's playoffs, so it's hard to fathom such a stout, talented bunch dropping two consecutive home contests and bowing out with a sweep.
However, it won't be quite enough, because the Clippers will bounce back from two consecutive losses to win the final two games of the series. The keys will be the Clippers' superior depth and big performances from bench scorers Eric Bledsoe and Jamal Crawford.
Prediction: Los Angeles in six.