Four NBA playoff games will be played on Sunday, and each of them will help decide its respective series.
Although none of the eight teams in action will be able to clinch a first-round win in Game 4, there will be a big separation after the day. The four squads down 2-1 know that one more loss makes a comeback extremely difficult, while a win brings the matchup back to even.
Based on how well we have seen teams play on the road this postseason, it becomes difficult to predict which ones will be able to find a way to get that needed victory to remain in contention for a series win. With close battles throughout, it will come down to which side can make the key shots late.
Here is a preview for each upcoming game with predictions for which squads can come up big in the necessary moments and earn wins.
Chicago Bulls at Washington Wizards (WAS up 2-1)
The most important player in this game might be someone who is not playing. Wizards forward Nene was ejected from Game 3 after a skirmish with Jimmy Butler, and it has led to a suspension for Game 4, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports:
Meanwhile, Nene's teammate Marcin Gortat remained focused on the team goal:
The problem is that Gortat himself is not enough to handle the frontcourt duties. Trevor Booker—who likely slides into the starting lineup—will struggle against Taj Gibson and Carlos Boozer while Gortat has his hands full with Noah.
Although Mike Dunleavy is unlikely to go 8-of-10 from three-point range again, the Bulls will still find enough openings to score consistently. The defense will then be able to take care of the rest as Chicago evens the series on the road.
Prediction: Bulls 96, Wizards 93
Los Angeles Clippers at Golden State Warriors (LAC up 2-1)
All anyone can talk about when it comes to the Clippers is the racially insensitive comments allegedly made by owner Donald Sterling, as originally reported by TMZ. While some thought this could lead to a boycott, head coach Doc Rivers said this is not going to happen:
Either way, this is certainly not something the team wants to think about in the middle of a tough series. This is especially true after the Clippers barely escaped with a victory in the most recent game.
Coming into the series, Los Angeles was considered to have the advantage inside thanks to the injury to Andrew Bogut. While DeAndre Jordan did have 22 rebounds in the last game, the Warriors actually won the rebounding battle 52-47.
If Golden State can continue to hold its own on the boards, it can use its advantage on the perimeter to earn the victory. The squad went just 6-of-31 from beyond the arc in the past game, but you can expect a big improvement in the next contest.
Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson will be able to shoot the lights out at home, and the Warriors will treat their fans to a home win.
Prediction: Warriors 105, Clippers 100
Toronto Raptors at Brooklyn Nets (BKN up 2-1)
The Nets appeared ready for an easy victory in the last game before struggling down the stretch and barely hanging on for the win.
By no means should everybody be satisfied with the way we won, because we know we're a better team; we know we can play better. I'm just looking for the long run, fellas. We can't be playing with fire. We have to be a better team down the stretch.
The good news is that Brooklyn is capable of playing better. One area that needs improvement is offensive rebounding after the squad had just three offensive boards last game. This will require Kevin Garnett, Mason Plumlee and Andray Blatche to be more aggressive in the frontcourt.
Even without this upgrade, the Nets have shown that they are capable of closing out games, which is something that comes from experience. Pierce and Joe Johnson have made big shots late, and they have the confidence to keep this going.
Meanwhile, DeMar DeRozan has been taking the important shots for the Raptors, but he is only shooting 35.7 percent from the floor this series. The inconsistent guard is tough to trust in the fourth quarter, and his struggles will lead to another win for the Nets.
Prediction: Nets 98, Raptors 91
Houston Rockets at Portland Trail Blazers (POR up 2-1)
This has been arguably the most exciting series of the first round, with two games going into overtime and both teams topping 100 points in all three games.
The star of the series has been LaMarcus Aldridge, who is averaging 37.3 points and 12 rebounds in three games in the playoffs. Additionally, he was solid defensively last game, as noted by Jason Quick of The Oregonian:
Not to be outdone, Damian Lillard is tearing it up with an average of 26.3 points, 7.7 rebounds and 7.3 assists per game. While James Harden and Dwight Howard came in as the bigger names, the Trail Blazers have been much more impressive.
While Portland was unable to close out the last game on its home floor, the squad will not make this mistake in Game 4. The team can move the ball quickly down the court and should be ready to compete after just one day of rest.
Although this will be another tight matchup, the Trail Blazers will find a way to pull out the win.
Prediction: Trail Blazers 118, Rockets 117
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