The Chicago Bulls will look to end their opening-round series in five games against the Brooklyn Nets when the two teams get together on Monday night at the Barclays Center. But the Bulls will have to do so without starting point guard Kirk Hinrich.
Hinrich is in a walking boot and could miss the rest of the series after playing 60 minutes in the Bulls' 142-134 triple-overtime victory in Game 4. Hinrich scored 18 points and dished 14 assists in the game, but a calf injury was revealed afterward and he can barely walk without the boot.
The Nets will try and recover after a devastating loss in which they squandered a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter. Nate Robinson helped lead the comeback for the Bulls, scoring 12 straight at one point in the last three minutes of the game while Brooklyn melted down on offense.
Here are three things to watch for in Game 5.
How will the Bulls replace Hinrich?
Hinrich has dealt with a variety of injuries this season, so Chicago has plenty of experience with scrambling to fill holes. However, they have not always been successful, as the Bulls are just 5-13 without Hinrich in the lineup since Jan. 1. In this series, Hinrich has played solid defense on Deron Williams while providing an unexpected scoring punch.
Nate Robinson would be the natural choice to replace Hinrich in the starting lineup, but Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau could potentially elect to go with Marco Belinellli, who has handled point guard duties at times this season. Using Belinelli would allow Jimmy Butler to guard Williams, and it would keep Robinson as the scoring spark off the bench, a role for which he's much better suited.
How will Nets respond to Game 4 collapse?
The Nets were in great position to send the series back to Brooklyn tied 2-2. But the epic fourth quarter collapse and subsequent loss in triple-overtime dashed that and could have broken their spirits. The Nets have certainly caught a break with the Hinrich injury, so getting out to a good start is imperative. If things turn south early against the aggressive Bulls' defense, the Nets could fold up the tents and call it a season.
Will fatigue play a factor?
Numerous players racked up monster minutes in Game 4, and with Game 5 just two days later, fatigue could be a factor. For the Bulls, Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer both played 50-plus minutes, while Joakim Noah played 39 with his bad case of plantar fasciitis. Williams, Brook Lopez and Reggie Evans all played at least 50 minutes for the Nets, while Joe Johnson (also playing with plantar fasciitis) and Gerald Wallace both played 48. All those minutes could lead to some poor shooting and sloppy play on Monday.
Game time: 7 p.m. ET
National TV: TNT
Local TV: Comcast Sports Net Chicago and WWOR-Brooklyn
Odds: The Nets are 5½ - point favorites according to Oddsshark.com.