After two teams—the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers—were bounced from the 2013 NBA playoffs on Sunday, the opportunity for another pair to join them presents itself on Monday evening.
The Chicago Bulls have the Brooklyn Nets on the ropes, while the Oklahoma City Thunder will try to finish off the Houston Rockets without Russell Westbrook.
Indiana at Atlanta is the only matchup that has no elimination potential, but the Pacers could have the Hawks on the edge if they steal a road win.
Let’s take a closer look at each of these contests, including where to watch them, when they take place, a short preview, prediction on the outcome and more.
No. 4 Brooklyn Nets vs. No. 5 Chicago Bulls, Eastern Conference, Game 5
Time: Monday, April 29 at 7 p.m. ET
Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Series Record: Bulls 3, Nets 1
It would be downright surprising if the Nets had anything left in the tank at this point, especially after their heartbreaking triple-overtime loss on Saturday.
What will happen?
While the roar of the home crowd and some rest will certainly help get their legs back under them, Brooklyn’s players have been through too much to come back from this two-game deficit.
Depending on just how intense Chicago’s defensive efforts are, it’s apparent we are somewhere between likely and certain to witness this series come to its conclusion on Monday evening.
If the Bulls put the clamps down and make it tough to score on every possession, they are surely going to be advancing to the conference semifinals.
If it becomes another shootout that could wind up in overtime, the mentally exhausted Nets will have a chance to send this one back to Chicago and gain momentum.
Prediction: Bulls 89, Nets 86
No. 3 Indiana Pacers at No. 6 Atlanta Hawks, Eastern Conference, Game 4
Time: Monday, April 29 at 7:30 p.m. ET
Where: Phillips Arena, Atlanta
Series Record: Pacers 2, Hawks 1
The Pacers jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead at home but absolutely fell apart as soon as they reached the ATL.
Who do you like winning Game 4?
In an embarrassing Game 3 showing, Indiana was held to just 69 points and shot a paltry 27.2 percent from the field and 16 percent from beyond the arc. Meanwhile, Hawks big man Al Horford dominated Roy Hibbert and piled up 26 points and 16 rebounds.
If Game 4 is remotely similar to the previous contest, the Hawks will head back to Indiana with the series all evened up.
We expect a bit more out of Lance Stephenson (1-of-7 shooting in Game 3), George Hill (1-of-8) and Hibbert (3-of-8) in this upcoming matchup, which should at least keep things competitive.
Prediction: Hawks 93, Pacers 90
No. 1 Oklahoma City Thunder at No. 8 Houston Rockets, Western Conference, Game 4
Time: Monday, April 29 at 9:30 p.m. ET
Where: Toyota Center, Houston
Series Record: Thunder 3, Rockets 0
The Thunder are looking to bust out the brooms and pull off the third and final sweep of the first round.
Which team will win this game?
While the news of Westbrook’s season-ending injury was certainly deflating, Kevin Durant and Co. responded with an epic showing in Game 3, as the superstar dropped 41 points, grabbed 14 boards and dished four assists on the way to a 104-101 team victory.
That performance put the Rockets on the brink and leaves them with one last, desperate chance to win a game in front of their home fans on Monday evening.
Will they be able to accomplish this feat, or will OKC persevere and end this series in four? You’ll have to tune in tonight to find out for sure, but we’re going to start dusting off the broom.
Prediction: Thunder 102, Rockets 97