The 2013 NBA playoffs continue on Monday, May 13 as four teams prepare to square off in Game 4s: the Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls, as well as the Oklahoma City Thunder and Memphis Grizzlies.
The question is, who will win these games and create momentum in their respective series?
In the Eastern Conference, the Heat will travel to play the Bulls in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference semifinals series. Chicago took Game 1 in Miami, but the Heat have won two straight en route to a 2-1 series lead.
Will LeBron James and company make it three in a row to take a commanding 3-1 series lead as the action heads back to Miami? Or will the Bulls hold down home court and even the series at 2-2?
We'll determine that in a moment.
Out West, the Thunder and Grizzlies will continue their series as they play Game 4 in Memphis. The Grizzlies currently own a 2-1 series lead and have won two consecutive games after OKC took Game 1 in less than convincing fashion at home.
So will the Grizzlies extend their series lead to 3-1 with yet another home win? Or will the Thunder even it up at 2-2 before the series shifts back to Oklahoma City?
Let's find out.
Miami Heat at Chicago Bulls
Time: Monday, May 13 at 7 p.m. ET
Series Record: Miami Heat 2, Chicago Bulls 1
The Miami Heat have the 2-1 series lead, while the Chicago Bulls own the home-court advantage for Game 4. The Heat are a star-studded squad with depth at virtually every position, while the Bulls are without three starters and run most of their starters above 40 minutes.
This is an easy decision then, right? Not so fast.
The Bulls may be the inferior team, but they're also one of the most proud squads in the NBA. Going up against a hated rival in front of their home crowd, there's quite a strong possibility that Chicago stuns the world. Again.
The Bulls have already defeated the Heat in Miami, which wasn't as much of a wake-up call as we'd previously believed. During Game 3, Chicago and Miami were tied entering the fourth quarter at 70-70.
It simply came down to the Heat having more fourth-quarter firepower—something that you shouldn't view as a surefire event come Game 4.
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Nate Robinson: leads NBA in PPG in 4th quarter this postseason (8.3)2013-5-11 02:07:55
The Heat are the favored team in this series, and rightfully so. Even if Derrick Rose, Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich were to return, Miami is the defending NBA champion, and it just so happens to have the likes of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Ray Allen on its roster.
Miami may win this series, but this battle belongs to the Bulls.
During Miami's Game 3 victory, it shot 50.0 percent from the field, 40.0 percent from beyond the arc and 86.7 percent from the free-throw line. The Bulls, meanwhile, converted 45.5 percent from the field, 31.8 percent from distance and 68.0 percent from the free-throw line.
Behind Nate Robinson's fourth-quarter heroics, Carlos Boozer's pacing scoring, Marco Belinelli's sharpshooting and the defensive prowess of Joakim Noah and Jimmy Butler, Chicago won't need a bench. Well, not yet at least.
This is why we play the games.
Chicago Bulls 94, Miami Heat 88
Oklahoma City Thunder at Memphis Grizzlies
Time: Monday, May 13 at 9:30 p.m. ET
Series Record: Memphis Grizzlies 2, Oklahoma City Thunder 1
The Oklahoma City Thunder are desperate for a win, knowing that a loss here would put them down 3-1 against the NBA's top-ranked scoring defense. They also know that the Memphis Grizzlies have won six of their past seven playoff games and haven't lost once at home this postseason.
The question is, will Kevin Durant be enough?
Durant has received solid contributions from Kevin Martin, whose quick trigger release has tormented Memphis' perimeter defense when he steps beyond the arc. Upon stepping inside of the three-point line, however, Martin has been rendered helpless, shooting 37.5 percent on two-point field goals.
That's where Russell Westbrook is missed, as the Thunder have no one but Durant to put it on the floor and attack—except Reggie Jackson.
Jackson has been a revelation, attacking the basket off of the bounce and finishing well in traffic. The true benefit of his presence, however, is that he can attack before Memphis sets up their half-court sets, thus becoming OKC's source of transition points.
When you're replacing Westbrook with 58.6 percent of his average scoring output, however, the numbers speak for themselves.
We now arrive at Durant, who has averaged 34.0 points, 10.6 rebounds, 6.1 assists and 1.6 steals on 50.6 percent shooting from the field since Westbrook went down. Chances are we'll see more of the same from the superstar forward.
With Serge Ibaka averaging 11.1 points on 37.5 percent shooting in Westbrook's absence, however, none of that will matter.
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Grizzlies D really shut down Thunder on Saturday. OKC was cold from almost every spot! http://t.co/MRjVxiTVR92013-5-12 00:02:44
The Thunder have a legitimate chance at pulling out this upset, but this isn't a Memphis Grizzlies team that is dull enough to sleep on an opponent. They're well-coached and disciplined defensively, which eliminates the inexperience factor.
Memphis is led by grizzled veterans that want nothing more than to get their first taste of championship gold—they won't let a shorthanded Thunder team stop them from doing so.
This will be a close game throughout, and Durant will make it interesting come the fourth quarter. When it comes down to it, however, the Thunder simply do not have the manpower to overcome Memphis' defensive perimeter or interior.
Barring Ibaka's reawakening, this is a disappointing ending for a Thunder team led by one of the best players of our generation.
Memphis Grizzlies 93, Oklahoma City Thunder 91