The Chicago Bulls, Golden State Warriors, Indiana Pacers and Memphis Grizzlies are all seeded lower than their semifinal opponent. Does that mean they don't stand a chance of winning their respective series?
1. What are the Bulls' chances of winning their series?
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Andrew Han, ClipperBlog: 20 percent, which is actually quadruple what I would have said had the Bulls lost Game 1 as most predicted. Between Joakim Noah and Tom Thibodeau, Chicago will never go down without a fight. But despite Nate Robinson's best Derrick Rose impersonation, the Bulls are still hindered by several injuries. And LeBron James is still on the Heat.
James Herbert, Hardwood Paroxysm: 15 percent. The Bulls will make life hellish for the Heat with their defense but the chances of them pulling off three more wins are slim. As tenacious as Chicago is, this banged-up team is just not as talented as Miami. Save for the Heat losing a superstar to injury and the Bulls getting one back, that is.
Brett Koremenos, HoopSpeak: 20 percent. They may have stolen Game 1 against a rusty Miami side, but this Chicago team is still a shell of its former self. Both Kirk Hinrich and Luol Deng are expected to miss tonight's game and even if they do return soon, it's unclear how much they'll be able to help. The Bulls are easy to root for because of their never-say-die attitude in the face of all these injuries, but the Heat are the best team in the league and could very easily win the next four games by 15-plus points against this undermanned squad.
Ethan Sherwood Strauss, ESPN.com: 10 percent. Dwyane Wade looks a little gimpy, otherwise I'd be wholly confident in a Miami victory. Credit to Chicago for keeping their defensive principles under continued duress, but they likely lack enough offense to pull this one out. Eventually, Chris Bosh and Wade will get to the line. When Miami starts scoring, it'll be near impossible for the Bulls to keep up.
Michael Wallace, ESPN.com: 36 percent. That's the combined total of the jersey numbers belonging to Jimmy Butler, Joakim Noah and Nate Robinson. If the Bulls never win another game in this series, they've already secured in my mind the second-most impressive playoff run of this postseason. They will be topped only by the eventual champion.
2. What are the Warriors' chances of winning their series?
Han: 25 percent, and climbing. Is it plausible that Stephen Curry and the Warriors could shoot the lights out once every four times the series is played to upset the Spurs? Yes. Heck, we're approaching the point where it'd be believable if Curry could shoot the lights out of a game in a doubleheader if he were playing in the other game.
Herbert: 25 percent. The Warriors proved they could hang with the Spurs but also gave up a golden opportunity to steal a game on their opponents' floor in Game 1. Coming back after a heartbreaking loss as they did against Denver will be a much taller order against San Antonio.
Koremenos: 25 percent. That number would have been triple that had Golden State pulled out a Game 1 victory. Losses like that are series-changers, so it will be hard to see the Warriors coming back to steal the series. However, with Steph Curry playing as well as he is, it's hard to completely count them out.
Strauss: 20 percent. I figured that San Antonio would allow fewer Stephen Curry 3-point attempts than Denver, but Tim Duncan's pick-and-roll defense was an issue in Game 1. He rarely hedges out to the perimeter these days and in the first game, he sunk back so far as to allow Curry easy looks. Now, that may have been the result of Duncan getting the flu, but this series is about to get interesting if Timmy stays immobile, and far from the perimeter. Still, Spurs in five is the guess.
Wallace: 43.9 percent. It seems a bit high, I know. But that's Steph Curry's 3-point shooting percentage in the playoffs. And when Curry is in his shooting range the moment he steps off the team bus, you have more than a puncher's chance. The Warriors let a double-digit lead get away in Game 1. They'll make this a tougher series than expected.
3. What are the Pacers' chances of winning their series?
Han: 45 percent, a drop thanks to the boggling 30-2 run they fell victim to late in Game 2. The Pacers were set to be Memphis East, wrapping up the Big Apple with their suffocating defense. But the turnover issues and disappearing offense are evolving from a nuisance into full-fledged problems. Indiana can win the series, but the way Game 2 ended gives anyone pause.
Herbert: 60 percent. Indiana's defensive scheme is a great match for New York's attack, the fourth quarter of Game 2 excepted. As bad as the Pacers looked down the stretch Tuesday, they are the better, tougher team and they did their job by getting a split at MSG.
Koremenos: 60 percent. Despite being blown out in Game 2, Indiana still has the advantage. The Pacers know who they are and what they do best, which is something their opponent can't always say. Between the ugly stretches of isolation-heavy basketball and frustratingly limited use of Pablo Prigioni, the Knicks tend to get away from being their best self just enough to lose this series.
Strauss: 60 percent. It sure didn't look like it in Game 2, but the Pacers are one of the few teams well equipped to handle New York's four-out attack. I'd be really confident in an Indiana series victory were it not for Charles Barkley showing how Indiana's big men stay in the paint perpetually on defense. Shhh, Chuck, someone from the league might notice how Indiana flouts defensive three seconds. Help the Pacers out, don't blow their cover.
Wallace: 50 percent. I've got this one as a complete toss-up at this point. Indiana took care of business by earning a split in the first two games on the road and now heads home with a chance to take control of this series. The neutralizer on New York's behalf is that Carmelo Anthony seems to finally have regained his offensive rhythm.
4. What are the Grizzlies' chances of winning their series?
Han: 55 percent. This series has the distinct atmosphere of the 2009 East matchup between the Cavs and Orlando. In Game 1 of that series, LeBron James hit the game winner. Cleveland was elated, and the Magic knew they could win. In 2013, Kevin Durant hit the winning shot in Game 1 to much jubilation. And the Grizzlies know they can win the series.
Herbert: 65 percent. In Kevin Durant, the Thunder obviously boast the best player in the series. He needs more help, though, and isn't likely to get it. The fact that Memphis was able to withstand his 36-point, 11-rebound, 9-assist performance in Game 2 bodes well for the Grizzlies, who have found their crunch time creator in Mike Conley.
Koremenos: 70 percent. The Thunder are struggling mightily without star guard Russell Westbrook and coach Scott Brooks has had problems adapting both his scheme and rotation to his absence. And though the Grizzlies are manned by a coach who makes plenty of his own head-scratching decisions, their big men -- Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph -- are dominating this series so far.
Strauss: 51 percent. Everybody loves the Grizzlies, but my do they struggle to score sometimes. That's an issue when your team is facing off against Kevin Durant. It's easy to assume that the Thunder are meek without Westbrook, but they still have the best player in the series, with some talent surrounding. Memphis is the better defensive team and they should outrebound OKC. That's why I'd side with grit and grind, albeit by the thinnest of margins.
Wallace: 65 percent. Z-Bo & Co. very well could be up 2-0 at this point. Instead, they take a split back to Beale Street in what has been a remarkable series so far. Mike Conley might be the most underrated point guard in the league. And so far, he's proving just how vulnerable the Thunder are without Russell Westbrook.
5. Which second-round series is the most intriguing?
Han: Golden State versus San Antonio. The ramp-up to the playoffs and now the postseason have been a coming-out party for Curry. His stroke is so breathtaking and dynamic that fans are on the edge of their seat when Curry touches the ball 35 feet from the rim. And after that double-overtime Game 1, who isn't waiting with bated breath?
Herbert: New York versus Indiana is the most intriguing, even if it is not the most exciting matchup. Both looked like the East's second-best team for significant stretches this season and this series has serious potential to go seven. The Paul George-Carmelo Anthony matchup is a fascinating contrast in style -- just ask Metta World Peace.
Koremenos: Bulls-Heat. At this point Miami is the odds-on favorite to claim the title, so to see them down 1-0, even to a depleted Chicago team, adds a layer of intrigue to the playoffs. As I wrote above, my head tells me there is very little evidence that points to the Bulls being able to actually win this series, but I also wouldn't be all that shocked if this banged-up squad still ended up giving the Heat all they could handle.
Strauss: Warriors-Spurs. Look, all these series are great, but Golden State is the local concern. I get to see Steph Curry become a star, and I get to see the savviest team test him on a big stage. Even if Pacers-Knicks and Thunder-Grizzlies are more closely contested, Curry versus Popovich is where my interest lives right now.
Wallace: Tough call here. But it's hard to top the fireworks from the start of that Spurs-Warriors matchup. Great coaching. Exciting offense. Rising superstar versus veteran savvy and depth. But if the Bulls somehow go up 2-0 on the defending champion Heat tonight, then I reserve the right to shift gears here. Still, you can't go wrong with any of the four series.
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