NBA fans hope the four teams playing on Wednesday night can provide as much excitement as they did two days ago. The Chicago Bulls stole Game 1 from the defending champion Miami Heat while the San Antonio Spurs won a double-overtime thriller over the Golden State Warriors.
After a first round that lacked the consistent drama associated with playoff basketball, things have definitely been turned up a notch so far in the second round. If that continues, it should get very interesting over the next couple of weeks.
Let's take a closer look at each of the two games on tap for tonight. The biggest storyline is Miami trying to get back level with the Bulls before heading to Chicago.
For a complete look at the upcoming playoff schedule, check out the full second-round listing (via USA Today).
Chicago Bulls at Miami Heat (Game 2, Bulls Lead 1-0)
Where: American Airlines Arena in Miami, Fla.
When: Wednesday, May 8 at 7 p.m. ET
On paper, the Bulls shouldn't be able to keep pace with the Heat, especially as Derrick Rose continues to occupy the sidelines. But that's why games aren't played on paper. The sheer intensity Chicago shows every night is incredible.
The charge is led by Joakim Noah and Nate Robinson. Neither player has the natural ability of LeBron James or Dwyane Wade, but they never get outworked. That's rubbed off on their teammates, who are now three victories from a shocking upset.
In order for Miami to get back on track, it needs role players to step up. Erik Spoelstra knows what to expect from James, Wade and Chris Bosh, even though he had a lackluster Game 1.
It's the other players who are wild cards.
Players like Ray Allen, Shane Battier and Udonis Haslem must make a far greater impact in Game 2. The Heat don't need those secondary scorers to dominate. Just do enough to keep Chicago's defense honest and open space for the star trio.
Prediction: Heat 104, Bulls 90
Golden State Warriors at San Antonio Spurs (Game 2, Spurs Lead 1-0)
Where: AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas
When: Wednesday, May 8 at 9:30 p.m. ET
It would have been easy for the Spurs to pack it in when they were down 16 with four minutes left in Game 1. They are a battle-tested veteran squad that can win on the road. A loss wouldn't have spelled doom.
But they kept fighting.
The result was a 1-0 series lead. Tim Duncan is listed as probable for Game 2 (per USA Today) after flu issues during the opener. A full-strength Duncan should allow San Antonio to further establish the post, where it owns a clear edge over the wing-oriented Warriors.
For Golden State, the biggest key is bouncing back mentally. It took a shot in the gut two days ago by letting that huge lead slip away. Mark Jackson must get his young roster refocused so it can make another serious run at a road win.
Stephen Curry figures to see a lot more of Kawhi Leonard tonight, which will make it tough to repeat his monster scoring output from Game 1. That puts the onus on Klay Thompson, who needs to stay out of foul trouble, and Harrison Barnes to pick up the slack.
Prediction: Spurs 98, Warriors 94