Which teams are in control?
Will the Bulls be able to avoid elimination against the Wizards? Can the Thunder and Clippers protect their turf? Our 5-on-5 team answers the relevant questions about Tuesday night's tripleheader.
1. What adjustment must the Bulls make to force a Game 6?
Zach Harper, A Wolf Among Wolves: They have to figure out how to defend the 3-point line in this series. The Wizards have hit 40.3 percent of their shots from downtown in this series and a lot of it is coming off of dribble penetration. Cut off lanes and run them off the 3-point line.
James Herbert, Hardwood Paroxysm: Give D.J. Augustin more minutes. He hasn't been great in this series, especially in the past two games, but there's always a chance he'll go off. Starting point guard Kirk Hinrich has adversely affected the Bulls' spacing and their ability to get good shots.
David Thorpe, ESPN Insider: Does "make more open shots" count? Because the cold reality is that they are just being outshot. Washington outscored Chicago by a combined 24 points in their past two wins with 3-point shots, with the Bulls making just nine of 36 3-point attempts. No adjustment carries a bigger "bang for the buck" than if Chicago can outshoot the Wizards on the perimeter.
Brian Windhorst, ESPN.com: They're getting so little from their guards, the talent disparity they covered with smoke and mirrors during the regular season by essentially making Joakim Noah a guard has been unmasked now that a team has a chance to long-range game plan for it. I'm not sure it's an adjustment, but they simply have to get better play from their guard rotation.
Royce Young, Daily Thunder: Get back to running things through Noah. The Bulls are at their very best, at least offensively, when Noah is essentially their point guard, running their offense outside-in. Through four games, Noah has 16 total assists, with the most in any game being five. The Wizards have made it a point to limit Noah's touches, so the Bulls have to free their best offensive weapon back up to start making plays again.
2. What are the odds the Wizards reach the East finals?
Harper: 50 percent. It's obvious that they either will or won't make the East finals, but the fact we're even considering this after what we all thought the Pacers could do this postseason is pretty remarkable. The Wizards are a legitimate threat to get to the Heat before Indiana can.
Herbert: 70 percent. It's looking good for Washington. This group has thoroughly outplayed Chicago, and has more weapons than Atlanta. If the Pacers somehow get back to their old form, they'd be trouble, but we haven't seen any signs of that happening.
Thorpe: 50 percent, perhaps better. Their size will bother Atlanta and they match up well with Indiana, and their speed and wing threats can hurt either team, as well. Remember, the Wizards are like Memphis, a better team than their seeding because of injuries in the regular season.
Windhorst: 40 percent. I think that probably makes them the favorite on that side of the bracket at the moment. The Pacers and Bulls, the high seeds, have not been eliminated. Though both are on the brink, it's a mistake to assume a fourth loss when playing against largely inexperienced playoff teams. The Hawks have played wonderfully in their series, certainly not like the team that lost 21 of 28 games in the second half, just as the Pacers are a far cry from that 33-7 start.
Young: 60 percent. It's no given they're done with the Bulls yet, but assuming they can finish things off, they're looking at a 38-win Atlanta team or the crumbling Pacers. But here's the thing: If it's the Pacers, they'll be fresh off two season-saving wins that could be something that brings them together and snaps them out of this funk. Which means they may be playing the actual Pacers and not this current messy version.
3. Thunder or Grizzlies: Who's in control of this series?
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Harper: Thunder. There isn't a lot of control and this is basically a decision based on home-court advantage for the final three games of the series. The fun thing is we could see the road team win the next two games but Game 7 would be in OKC. Have to like the Thunder in that situation.
Herbert: The Thunder. This feels like a coin flip, but you have to go with the home team when it's this close. If Game 4 was a turning point for Reggie Jackson, he'll make the Thunder a lot harder to stop.
Thorpe: Is that a joke? Three overtime games, all three of which Memphis seemingly had the game in hand in regulation, suggests they are the slightly better team. OKC gets two home games, if needed. The series is tied at two despite subpar play from KD and Russell Westbrook. But Memphis should probably be up 3-1. Bottom line, this series is a toss-up, coin-flip series. Who has the upper hand, heads or tails?
Windhorst: Nobody. The Grizzlies should still be salty they let Game 4 go, that was a golden chance to knock the Thunder into the ropes. Even still, Kevin Durant having a tough time dealing with Tony Allen is really something to see. It is expected the Thunder will assert dominance and Durant and Westbrook will rise up out of slumps, but assuming things in the playoffs is often foolish.
Young: Thunder. Back with home-court advantage in their pockets, and finally shaking the monkey off their back that they couldn't beat the Grizzlies in overtime. And here's the thing: They're tied 2-2, and Durant and Westbrook haven't even played well yet. Eventually those guys -- especially Durant -- are going to snap out of this.
4. Clippers or Warriors: Who's in control of this series?
Harper: The Clippers are in control of this series, mostly because the Warriors can't affect how the Clippers end up dealing with the Donald Sterling mess that's distracting their focus. If they control that, they control the series, but that's entirely up to them.
Herbert: The Clippers. They need to find a way to regain their focus, but they should be able to dominate these Warriors in the paint. I wouldn't expect DeAndre Jordan to be a no-show again.
Thorpe: It stands to reason that the Clippers' players and their coach will be able to focus on Game 5 better than they did Game 4. After all, each season is precious and guys such as Chris Paul and Blake Griffin must sense that this can be a special year for them. The fans should be as energized at what the Clippers had to deal with in Oakland, which will be a nice jolt of energy. They are the better team.
Windhorst: Clippers. They're the better team and they have home-court advantage. I'm sure the team's hope is that Tuesday can mark the beginning of closure for the damaging last few days and the drama can ultimately act as a unifying element. It's an odd scenario. The instinct in controversy is to root against the team, but in this case the players are generally innocent, yet their winning potentially helps the owner, even if he's exiled. Truly a unique scenario. Still, the Clippers are better.
Young: Clippers. They're battling against exterior factors and focusing on basketball is tough for them right now, but they're simply the better team. They have better players, a better coach and home-court advantage.
5. Fact or Fiction: All three home teams will win Tuesday night.
Harper: Fiction. I don't think we've seen enough from this Bulls team in the series to feel good about them winning Game 5 at home Tuesday night. I'd expect the Wizards to end the series Tuesday night and the other home teams to take care of business.
Herbert: Fact, though this is an extremely dangerous prediction based on how these playoffs have gone. The Bulls have been too resilient all season to go out like this, and I'll take the Thunder and Clippers by a smidge.
Thorpe: Fiction. If we have learned anything from these 2014 playoffs, it's that these teams are so even. I'd almost suggest that the three road teams have as good a chance to sweep these games as they do being swept.
Windhorst: Fact. Yeah, the home teams are 14-18 so far. Yeah, the Clippers have to be an emotional wreck. Yeah, the difference between the Grizzlies and Thunder is nonexistent. But what the NBA needs right now is some comfort and a return to some sanity. I say this is the night!
Young: Fiction. The Thunder will beat the Grizzlies and the Clippers will rally with an emotional response to beat the Warriors. But the Wizards are going to finish off the Bulls.