Monday night offered up a chance for two teams to close out their first round series and another to take full control of theirs. All three teams failed to capitalize on their opportunity. The Hawks fell for the second straight game in Brooklyn, the Bulls couldn’t close out their series with the Bucks and the Grizzlies failed to sweep the Blazers. Portland beating Memphis was the only game we got right (1-2 on the night, 24-7 for the playoffs), and clearly we all need to reassess how we look at the Hawks and Bulls right about now.

We get some time to reflect, as there are just two NBA games on the docket tonight. Dallas tries to keep their series alive with the Rockets, while the Clippers and Spurs (2-2) look to break their series tie. Let’s break down both matchups and see who you should be betting on tonight:

Dallas Mavericks (7) @ Houston Rockets (2)

Dallas has looked fantastic the past two games, and no Rajon Rondo could have something to do with it. So could have playing at home, where the Mavs put up a ton of points and staved off elimination with a nice game four win. The Mavs stole the last game as a matter of pride, but the end is inevitable in this series. It only makes sense that Dallas would go down shooting in Houston when they take the court in game five. It’s unfortunate, too, since the Mavs had game two and could be playing to go up 3-2 in this series tonight. Instead, we’re probably in for an explosive offensive showdown that ends with the better team pulling away and claiming the series, 4-1.

Pick: Rockets 106, Mavs 103

San Antonio Spurs (6) @ Los Angeles Clippers (3)

The Clippers are in a dangerous spot, as a loss tonight would send the series back to San Antonio with the Spurs in total control. L.A. has been the aggressor and overall the better team in three of four games, but only two of those games have been wins. This is a very tough game five to call, as the Spurs have only shown up on defense at an elite level in one game, and it was in San Antonio. The Clips have otherwise been a real handful on offense and they’re generally very tough on their home court. That being said, L.A. didn’t show up in game three and coughed up a game two they should have had. Instead of having a commanding 3-1 series lead, they’re heading into the biggest game of these young playoffs not knowing for sure which version of themselves will show up.

As a fan I’m pulling for the Clippers to land the upset blow and win this in seven games, but as a realist I can’t see Kawhi Leonard and Tim Duncan going down 3-2. Los Angeles also routinely shoots themselves in the foot late in games, whether it be via fouls or turnovers. I’m sure we’re in for a barn burner and I wouldn’t be the least bit shocked if the Clippers dominated for 99% of this contest. It’s the last few minutes that worry me.

Pick: Spurs 108, Clippers 104

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