There are two teams on the brink of elimination Wednesday night: The Chicago Bulls at the hands of the Miami Heat, and the Oklahoma City Thunder at the hands of the Memphis Grizzlies.
Both the Bulls and Thunder are down 3-1 in their series, lose and they can make tee times for Thursday morning.
Let’s not talk about coming back to win the series. First, because it’s not likely at in either case (these teams are in trouble). Second, because it’s not how teams think — they have to think one game at a time.
So which team is the most likely to force a Game 6, Chicago or OKC?
Yes, we say Oklahoma City, too.
While it’s a 3-1 series Memphis is just +16 for the entire series — no game has been decided by more than six points. It’s been incredibly close. It’s just that in the last three games the Grizzlies have done a better job executing down the stretch — they have made it hard on Kevin Durant and Durant has missed shots down the stretch.
But back home in Oklahoma City Durant may well hit those shots — he is a guy who generally does not wilt at the end of games. What is more is he should get better help from Kevin Martin or Serge Ibaka — role players tend to be more comfortable and make plays at home they do not on the road. The Thunder (and Ibaka in particular) have had to step up and do more in the absence of Russell Westbrook and they haven’t been able to.
But they just have to do a little more, a little better to get the Thunder a win in a close series.
The Bulls have much bigger problems.
A good defensive team like the Heat can take away a team’s first option — but injuries have already done that to Chicago. No Derrick Rose, no Luol Deng and a hobbled Joakim Noah. Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau has had no choice but to go with Nate Robinson to generate offense — and in Chicago’s Game 1 upset it worked, he had 27 points on 8-of-16 shooting.
But the Heat have focused on taking him out of the equation — more defensive pressure, trapping him off pick and rolls, fouling him hard if he goes down the lane — and the result is Robinson shooting 8-of-35 in the last three games.
Thibodeau doesn’t have any other arrows in his quiver to shoot — unless you think a random huge night from Marco Belinelli is coming, the Bulls are in trouble. Serious trouble.
It’s hard to see Chicago getting to a Game 6 at home. Their season ends Wednesday night.
Oklahoma City may well live to play another day.