Two first-round series remain undecided in the Eastern Conference's half of the NBA playoffs with the Atlanta Hawks and Brooklyn Nets knotted 2-2, and the Chicago Bulls holding a 3-2 lead over the Milwaukee Bucks.
Brooklyn, which looked primed for its second first round exit in three years, stormed back from an 0-2 deficit to tie things up with the top-seeded Hawks thanks to two big victories at home. But the Nets now return to Atlanta where they initially fell behind in two games decided by 12 total points.
Also winners of two straight, the Bucks are looking to stave off elimination one more time to force a decisive Game 7 against a Bulls squad that looked poised to complete a sweep less than a week ago.
Let’s quickly delve into each series and make some predictions.
Nets vs. Hawks
Game 5 of the series turns back to Atlanta, where the Hawks went a blistering 35-6 during the regular season, but Brooklyn’s looked far sharper of late. Powered by point guard Deron Williams 35 points and seven assists and a team defense that forced 16 Hawks turnovers, the Nets claimed 120-115 Game 4 victory to put Atlanta’s backs against the wall. Nets center Brook Lopez also threw in 26 points and 10 rebounds, notching his third double-double and third-straight 20-plus point game of the series.
Brooklyn’s defense has also honed in on Atlanta’s back court of Jeff Teague, Kyle Korver and Dennis Schroder. Teague’s averaging 16.3 points and 6.5 assists in the series, but has also coughed up 4.0 turnovers per contest, including five in Game 4.
Schroder’s been a wonder off the bench for Atlanta all season, but his shot’s been disrupted by the Nets perimeter defense. The German’s shooting 39.5 percent from the field, and the dead-eye specialist Korver has gone from 49.2 percent behind the arc in the regular season to 33.3 in the series.
Start Time: Wednesday, 7 p.m. ET
TV Channel: TNT
Betting Odds: Atlanta -9
Over/Under: 200.5 points
Prediction: Atlanta over Brooklyn, 97-90
Bulls vs. Bucks
Chicago gets its third chance to bounce a Bucks squad that’s shown incredible resiliency the last two games, especially second-year point guard Michael Carter-Williams. Acquired from Philadelphia at the trade deadline a little over two months ago, Carter-Williams exploded for a near triple-double of 22 points, nine assists, and eight rebounds in the Bucks 94-88 Game 5 victory.
Backcourt mate Khris Middleton contributed 21 points on 8-for-16 shooting, but what the Bucks have really done is rediscover the defensive prowess that made them one of the top clubs in the East during the regular season.
In the last two games Milwaukee’s held a Bulls squad loaded with All-Stars Jimmy Butler and Pau Gasol as well as a freshly mended point guard Derrick Rose to 90 and 88 points and 41.8 percent shooting.
Butler’s served as the Bulls primary weapon, just like he did in the regular season before Rose came back, and he’s averaged 26.6 points in the series but also shot 5-for-21 in Game 5. Rose, perhaps still trying to find his rhythm with the ball and teammates, has committed 14 combined turnovers in the two losses and went 0-for-7 from three-point range in Game 5.
Start Time: Thursday, 7 p.m. ET
TV Channel: TNT
Betting Odds: Chicago -3.5
Over/Under: 187.5 points
Prediction: Chicago over Milwaukee, 96-85