Ranking the Likelihood of Second-Round NBA Playoff Comebacks
The second round of the 2013 NBA playoffs has been extremely competitive thus far. While the Golden State Warriors have already started their comeback against the San Antonio Spurs by tying the series 2-2, other playoff teams will look to match that performance and stave off elimination.
Eight teams are still in the hunt for an NBA championship, and as the old saying goes, “It ain't over until the fat lady sings.” Until a team manages to win four games in the conference semifinals, there’s still a chance for teams to come back.
However, some NBA comebacks are more likely than others due to matchups and home-court advantage.
From No. 4 down to No. 1, each series comeback will be ranked from least likely to most likely.
4. Chicago Bulls vs. Miami Heat
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The Chicago Bulls fell into a 3-1 hole in their series against the Miami Heat on Monday. Game 4 was never close.
Nate Robinson went 0-of-12 from the field, Joakim Noah was just 1-of-6 and Carlos Boozer ended up 3-of-14. The Bulls finished with just 65 points and shot 25.7 percent as a team. Those lowly shooting numbers won’t beat any team in the NBA, much less the defending champion Heat.
The Bulls have fought admirably under coach Tom Thibodeau during the 2013 postseason, but it’s becoming evident that Chicago doesn’t have much left in the tank.
Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich have been sidelined due to various medical issues during this series. Noah has been hobbled for quite some time by plantar fasciitis, a condition he described as feeling "like you have needles underneath your foot while you're playing" (h/t Jeff Zillgitt, USA Today). Ouch.
Add those injuries to the absence of Derrick Rose, and it’s a mild miracle that Chicago has competed as well as it has.
Even if the Bulls get Deng and Hinrich back, winning three straight games against the Heat (two on the road) would be in “Miracle on Ice” territory in terms of upsets.
3. Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Memphis Grizzlies
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The Oklahoma City Thunder have had some noteworthy battles with the Memphis Grizzlies in the past, but the 2013 matchup has tested their resolve.
Without James Harden (traded to Houston) and Russell Westbrook (torn meniscus), an even larger amount of pressure has been hoisted on Kevin Durant’s shoulders.
The 24-year-old superstar has proven to be up to the task, though, at least from a statistical standpoint. He's averaged 30.8 points, 11 rebounds and 6.8 assists per game against the Grizz.
Unfortunately for Oklahoma City, Durant’s efforts have only led to one win in the series. After escaping Game 1 with a two-point victory, OKC dropped three straight. That includes a demoralizing Game 4 road loss, in which the Thunder squandered a 17-point first-half lead. The 17-point deficit slimmed to eight points at halftime, and Memphis just kept chipping away before winning 103-97 in overtime.
Compensating for the absence of Westbrook may prove to be too much for Durant. Winning three games in a row against Memphis (even with home-court advantage in two of the next three) will be no easy task.
2. New York Knicks vs. Indiana Pacers
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Already facing a 2-1 series deficit, the New York Knicks are at a distinct disadvantage against the Indiana Pacers. Unless the Knicks win Game 4 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, where Indy is undefeated in the playoffs this year, they’ll have to win three straight games to win the series.
Indiana lost three games in a row three times during the regular season, but only one three-game losing streak included a Pacers home game. Given that stat and the tremendous team defense Indiana plays, Game 4 has to be considered a must-win for New York.
If Carmelo Anthony and Co. can manage a road win to knot the series at 2-2, it'll create a huge shift in momentum. The Knicks could then return to Madison Square Garden, where a win would shift the series to 3-2 in their favor. Even so, the Pacers already proved that they could win in MSG.
The Knicks will be at the mercy of Anthony, J.R. Smith and their shooting touches. In the team’s two losses, those two players have shot a combined 33.3 percent from the field. In their only win, Smith still shot an abysmal 3-of-15, but 'Melo was a very efficient 13-of-26 from the floor (50 percent).
Anthony can certainly carry this Knicks squad. However, as a disciplined defensive team, Indiana has caused some serious matchup problems. If Smith doesn’t find the hot hand soon, New York won't have enough offensive weapons to move on.
1. Golden State Warriors vs. San Antonio Spurs
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The Golden State Warriors squared their series with the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday behind a dominating overtime period. The Dubs outscored the Spurs 13-3 in the extra session to knot the series at two games apiece.
Of course, Golden State never should have needed to come back in this series in the first place. If the Warriors hadn’t blown a 16-point lead in Game 1 before losing in double-overtime, they'd hold the advantage on San Antonio.
Even with David Lee playing an extremely limited role, the Warriors have given the Spurs all that they can handle. The backcourt tandem of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson has been a matchup nightmare for Gregg Popovich’s team, because Tony Parker can’t guard either of those two guys effectively.
Golden State's shooters are that dangerous. The Dubs could ride the hot hand of Curry, Thompson, Harrison Barnes or Jarrett Jack, depending upon who is having a big game. That three-point shooting prowess is a major asset.
The Spurs are extremely well coached and have veteran leaders, but Manu Ginobili is shooting just 36.1 percent from the field in the series.
Ultimately, there may be too much pressure on Parker and a 37-year-old Tim Duncan to get things done.