Chicago Bulls at Miami Heat (-14.5, 182)
Miami leads series 3-1.
The Miami Heat are one win away from advancing to the Eastern Conference finals and can seal the deal Wednesday when they host the beleaguered Chicago Bulls in Game 5. Miami has won the last three games by an average of 23.3 points and routed the Bulls 88-65 in Monday’s game to take a 3-1 series lead. Chicago appeared worn down and shot a franchise playoff-low 25.7 percent from the field in a poor effort.
The 65 points were also a franchise postseason low for a squad that has been hindered by the absences of forward Luol Deng (complications from a spinal tap) and point guard Kirk Hinrich (calf). Former MVP Derrick Rose (knee) never opted to suit up despite being medically cleared two months ago, and Nate Robinson finally hit the wall with a 0-for-12 shooting effort in Game 4. “We have nothing to lose and everything to gain,” Robinson said after Game 4. “Everyone said we wouldn’t win a game. We got one. We believe we can win the series.” Miami coach Erik Spoelstra refuses to believe Chicago is spent and done mounting a threat. “You don’t want to give this team second life,” Spoelstra said. “They’re far too dangerous for that type of mentality because they just continue to grind and they compete and we know that. We respect that.”
TV: 7 p.m. ET, TNT
ABOUT THE BULLS: Chicago’s porous Game 4 showing bottomed out with a nine-point third quarter, the lowest output in the franchise’s playoff history. The starting five was a combined 11-of-50 from the field as the Bulls scoring average in the series dropped to 82.5. “We got a little discouraged and we can’t let that happen,” center Joakim Noah said afterward. “We did not play very well. We did not execute very well. We can’t put our heads down. We know we can compete with this team.” Veteran guard Richard Hamilton saw his first action in the series with 11 points in 22 minutes. Hamilton had been banished deep on the bench despite all the injuries.
ABOUT THE HEAT: Miami’s dominance in the series has been done with minimal contributions from standout guard Dwyane Wade. A badly bruised right knee has severely diminished Wade’s ability to play at a high level and he is averaging only 11.3 points after scoring just six points on 3-of-10 shooting in Game 4. “It’s just frustrating at times, but just try to do what you can,” Wade said. “Sometimes it feels good, sometimes it doesn’t. You can’t predict it.” Wade’s condition is one of the reasons why the Heat would like to finish the series Wednesday and give Wade time to rest the knee while awaiting the start of the conference finals.
* Bulls are 2-5 ATS in their last 7 games overall.
* Heat are 17-5 ATS in their last 22 games overall.
* Under is 10-1 in Bulls last 11 games following a double-digit loss at home.
* Bulls are 1-4 ATS in the last 5 meetings.
1. The Heat have won each of their last five closeout playoff games by double digits.
2. Chicago’s 65 points in Game 4 were the second fewest Miami has allowed in a playoff game.
3. Miami F LeBron James is averaging 23.8 points, 7.8 assists, seven rebounds and 2.3 steals in the series.
Memphis Grizzlies at Oklahoma City Thunder (-4, 185)
Memphis leads series 3-1.
The Memphis Grizzlies have never been to the Western Conference finals. Memphis can get there for the first time if it can defeat the host Oklahoma City Thunder in Wednesday’s Game 5 of their conference semifinal series. The Grizzlies have won three straight games after a Game 1 loss while taking advantage of an Oklahoma City squad missing Russell Westbrook. The Thunder lost three consecutive games just once during the regular season and never lost four straight.
Forward Kevin Durant has tried to carry the Thunder without Westbrook (knee) and he will need three more yeoman efforts if Oklahoma City is to overcome its deficit. “One thing about Kevin, he’s going to come back and give everything he has,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “He’s not an excuse guy. He’s not going to blame anything on nobody, other than put the pressure on himself to perform.” Memphis lost a seven-game series to the Thunder two seasons ago and isn’t about to let up with Oklahoma City on the brink of elimination. The Grizzlies overcame a 17-point deficit to win Game 4 in overtime. “We are a team that just plays hard and doesn’t quit,” Memphis coach Lionel Hollins said afterward. “We scratch, we claw.”
TV: 9:30 p.m. ET, TNT
ABOUT THE GRIZZLIES: Center Marc Gasol was named NBA Defensive Player of the Year last month but somehow only earned a second-team spot on the All-Defensive team selected by the NBA coaches that was released Monday. Gasol seemed to draw motivation from the snub by blocking six shots to go with 23 points and 11 rebounds in Game 4. Gasol is in the midst of an outstanding series, scoring 20 or more points in all four games while averaging 21.8 points and 8.8 rebounds. Power forward Zach Randolph had his best game of the series with 23 points and 12 rebounds and the Grizzlies are hard to beat when Randolph and Gasol both get double-doubles in the same game. Point guard Mike Conley is averaging 19.3 points but has made just one-third of his shots in three of the four games.
ABOUT THE THUNDER: Power forward Serge Ibaka is coming off his best game of the series and has two straight double-doubles after shooting 6-for-22 over the first two games. Ibaka had 17 points and 14 rebounds in Game 4 to help take some scoring pressure off Durant. “We need his scoring, we need his shooting and I thought this last game was good,” Brooks said. “Hopefully we can get it again.” Durant is averaging 30.8 points and 11 rebounds in the series but was just 10-for-27 in Monday’s loss. Durant faded down the stretch and Derek Fisher’s 3-pointer was Oklahoma City’s lone points of the overtime.
* Grizzlies are 4-0 ATS in their last 4 road games.
* Thunder are 0-4 ATS in their last 4 home games.
* Under is 21-7-2 in Thunder last 30 overall.
* Road team is 8-3 ATS in the last 11 meetings.
1. Oklahoma City averaged 105.7 points during the regular season but is averaging just 91 in this series.
2. Memphis has won an NBA-leading 11 games when trailing by at least 17 points since the start of the 2009-10 campaign.
3. Thunder PG Reggie Jackson is averaging 13.3 points in the series as Westbrook’s replacement in the starting lineup.