The end may be near for the Brooklyn Nets.
Following a triple-overtime thriller in Game 4, the Chicago Bulls have an opportunity to advanced past the Nets in Game 5.
Sans Derrick Rose, postseason expectations were tapered for Chicago. And that's putting it kindly. After suffering a 17-point thrashing in Game 1, the Bulls faced even more questions.
Could they make it a series? Would Joakim Noah be able to play through his injury? Was Brooklyn poised to run away in this best-of-seven bout?
Chicago has since risen to the occasion, finding itself one victory shy of breathing second-round air.
Will the Bulls mar the Nets' return to the Barclays Center and put an end to their postseason aspirations, or will Brooklyn live to see a Game 6?
Noah and friends certainly need the additional rest that would come with winning in five games, but the Nets aren't about to go down quietly.
Time: Monday, April 29, 7 p.m. ET
Where: Barclays Center; Brooklyn, New York
Series Record: 3-1 Bulls
Key Storyline: What in the Hell Are We to Make of This Series?
Brooklyn and Chicago have engaged in a head-scratcher.
Offense and defense have taken turns dominating, and somehow, it's the injury-riddled Bulls that possess a two-game advantage.
Game 1 saw the Nets absolutely dominate and instilled a growing sense of belief that Chicago wouldn't be able to compete over the course of a seven-game series. Next, we saw Games 2 and 3, where the Bulls eliminated Brooklyn's dribble penetration and traipsed their way to two straight victories.
But then there was Game 4, in all of its turbulent glory. Brooklyn was up by 14 with less than four minutes to play. C.J. Watson blew a dunk that would have put the Nets ahead by 16 and all hell proceeded to break loose.
Robinson exploded and the Bulls came storming back. It took them three overtimes to complete the comeback, but they completed it nonetheless. In a matter of minutes, the Nets had gone from on the verge of tying the series to facing an arguably insurmountable deficit.
Can Brooklyn really win three consecutive contests to complete a comeback of their own? Or will the Bulls continue to thwart the efforts the way they have since Game 1? And what will Game 5 bring, offense or defense?
We're four games into the series, yet there are still a vast array of queries that need answering.
Injury Report (via CBSSports.com)
Bulls: Kirk Hinrich (calf, out), Joakim Noah (foot, probable) and Derrick Rose (knee, out).
Nets: No injuries reported.
Project Starting Lineups
Bulls: Kirk Hinrich (PG), Jimmy Butler (SG), Luol Deng (SF), Carlos Boozer (PF) and Joakim Noah (C)
Nets: Deron Williams (PG), Joe Johnson (SG), Gerald Wallace (SF), Reggie Evans (PF) and Brook Lopez (C)
The Bulls Will Win if...
They hound Deron Williams.
I've been singing this song all series and I don't intend to stop now. Williams has been able to kill Chicago when he gets to the rim and while the Bulls did a nice job keeping him away from the rim in Game 4, he was allotted too many open shots for most of the night.
Williams was shooting 58.8 percent from the field when Chicago went on its fourth-quarter run. He shot 5-of-8 from beyond the arc with most of his shots coming in the flow of the offense after being freed up by poor defensive rotations.
Once the Bulls tightened up their defense on the point guard, the momentum began to shift.
From the final four minutes of the fourth quarter straight on through to the end of the game, Williams was just 2-of-11 from the field and had just one assist.
Chicago was doubling him more, defending the pick-and-roll much better and closing out on his seemingly open jump shots.
Keeping Williams outside the paint is a start, but he can score from anywhere. Ensuring that help defense is brought to force the ball out of his hands or goading him into contested shots is what helped the Bulls win in Game 4.
If it remains a focus, it can help them win in Game 5, too.
The Nets Will Win if...
They continue to score like they did in Game 4.
I get it, the Nets lost, but they dropped 111 points in regulation. They were in complete control until they became complacent on both ends of the floor. If they can play with that same kind of aggression on the offensive end in Game 5, they shouldn't lose again.
Brooklyn shot 60.9 percent from the field through the first 44 minutes of the game. And nearly 41 percent of those attempts came at the rim.
When the Nets were attacking and finding seams in Chicago's defense, they were scoring. A lot. And when they scored, they were winning. By a lot.
It's no coincidence that as their offense began to fail them, a win eventually fell out of reach.
From the final four minutes of the fourth quarter on, they converted on just 37.2 percent of their field-goal attempts. Just over 30 percent of their shots came at the rim and more than a quarter of them came from beyond the arc, where they connected on just 16.7 percent of their attempts in the final 19 minutes.
The Nets can't afford to jack up an inordinate number of jump shots. They need to attack the basket and keep Chicago's defense honest. Force them to converge, rotate and foul. Just like they did for most of the game.
And just like they should have continued to do if they had wanted to leave Chicago with a victory in Game 4.
Chicago has Brooklyn on the precipice of elimination. Just four games into the series, that's exactly where the Bulls want to be.
Don't make the mistake of thinking the Nets are going to roll over in Game 5, though. Head coach P.J. Carlesimo still believes his team can win the series and he'll instill the same sense of confidence in his players before tip.
Trailing 3-1 is hardly optimal, but the Nets do at least have an opportunity to begin their climb back at home, where they absolutely manhandled the Bulls in Game 1.
Brooklyn Nets @BrooklynNets
The #BlackoutInBrooklyn is back tomorrow night for Game 5 @BarclaysCenter! What's your key to the game? http://t.co/ePpFyIZaOZ4/28/2013, 7:35:36 PM
I'm also encouraged by how well they scored for the most of Game 4. Chicago did a poor job of defending Williams at times, but Brooklyn was finding holes and moving the ball well. The Bulls excel at making adjustments, but if the Nets can keep the ball moving, they'll have no problem scoring.
And again, they'll need to score. Noah, Robinson and the rest of the Bulls can taste the second round and the much-needed rest that would come with a Game 5 victory. Advancing also leaves the door open for a Rose return, who could make an appearance as soon as the second round.
The Bulls are going to take this series...eventually. But after a physical Game 4 that spanned three overtimes, they're not going to win it on Monday.
Brooklyn will find ways to score once again—this time without a monumental collapse—and will survive to play a Game 6.
Prediction: Nets 97, Bulls 89
All stats were compiled from Basketball-Reference and NBA.com unless otherwise noted.