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Sixers vs. Celtics
The second-seeded Miami Heat successfully avoided a Game 7 with a 105-93 win over the third-seeded Indiana Pacers on Thursday to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals for the second time in as many years. The Heat will meet the winner between the fourth-seeded Boston Celtics and eighth-seeded Philadelphia 76ers, who will square off in Game 7 of their semifinal series on Saturday at TD Garden.
The Celtics (-5.5) are 17-4 all-time in Game 7s at home while the Sixers are 2-4 in that particular situation against Boston. The losing team has scored 85 points or less in the last three games of this series, and 92 has been a magic number of sorts with the team scoring at least that many points going 4-0. The other two games were won by the team scoring exactly 82 points. If all these numbers sound confusing, just imagine the challenge each coach is faced with in trying to generate enough offense to win while finding a way to play the best defense possible.
That is how Game 7 will likely be decided, playing a very similar style to each team's close-out game in the previous round. Philadelphia knocked out the top-seeded Chicago Bulls in Game 6 of the first round 79-78 while Boston edged the fifth-seeded Atlanta Hawks 83-80 with each one going UNDER the total. The 76ers were able to hold Rajon Rondo in check en route to an 82-75 victory in Game 6 on Wednesday, limiting him to nine points and a playoff-low six assists. They also made Rondo play defense against Jrue Holiday, who tied a playoff high with 20 points, and forced him into four turnovers. This key individual matchup could play a big role in deciding who wins Game 7.
On Sunday, the Western Conference Finals will get underway with Game 1 between the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs and the second-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder. Both teams will have plenty of rest going into the series, and the Spurs (-5.5) will be bringing an 18-game winning streak with them as well. San Antonio has gone 15-2-1 against the spread in those games dating back to the regular season and won eight of the last nine meetings with Oklahoma City straight-up to go along with a 7-2 ATS mark.
The Thunder's biggest challenge will be overcoming the incredible depth of the Spurs, who come at their opponents in waves and are easily the deepest team remaining in the playoffs. San Antonio head coach Gregg Popovich did an excellent job managing the minutes of his veterans down the stretch and into the postseason, but now they may need to play extended periods of time. Oklahoma City's dynamic duo of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook can only be matched by Miami's LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, who they may end up meeting in the NBA Finals.
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