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Celtics vs. Sixers

NBA Playoffs Preview

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5/14/12

The two teams that met in the 2010 NBA Finals will continue their quest for the 2012 championship on Monday when the fourth-seeded Boston Celtics host the eighth-seeded Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Conference playoffs and the third-seeded Los Angeles Lakers visit the second-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder in the West.  The Celtics and Lakers are longshots to meet in the NBA Finals for the third time in five years, but they both have to feel confident after walking away with big wins on Saturday.
 
Boston edged Philadelphia 92-91 in Game 1 of their conference semifinal series but failed to cover the spread as a 5.5-point home favorite.  The Celtics (-4) hope to build on that performance in Game 2 by starting stronger, as they were outscored by 10 points in the first quarter.  The 76ers were outscored in the second, third and fourth though and scored four less points at the free-throw line despite having one more attempt.  Boston was also able to overcome 2 of 18 shooting from beyond the 3-point arc behind a game-high 29 points and 11 rebounds from Kevin Garnett.  The total has gone OVER in the last three meetings between the teams.
 
The Lakers were one of two LA teams to come through in a Game 7 over the weekend, knocking out the sixth-seeded Denver Nuggets with a 96-87 home victory on Saturday.  The Clippers advanced as well with an 82-72 road win against the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday.  The Lakers begin their semifinal series against the Thunder with Game 1 on Monday while the Clippers open up their matchup with the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday.  The Spurs have not played since completing a four-game sweep of the Utah Jazz one week ago, and Oklahoma City ended the season for the defending NBA champion Dallas Mavericks back on May 5.
 
The Thunder (-7.5) will be extra motivated to beat LA in this series, especially after what happened in their last regular-season meeting on April 22.  That was the game Lakers forward Metta World Peace threw a flying elbow to the head of Oklahoma City's James Harden, getting ejected before his teammates pulled out a remarkable 114-106 double-overtime win, and he eventually received a seven-game suspension from the league for his actions.
 
World Peace's suspension ended prior to Game 7 against Denver, and he scored 15 points in his return.  Harden was recently named NBA Sixth Man of the Year and could end up being the difference in this series.  The Thunder are hoping center Kendrick Perkins is ready to play after he strained a muscle in his right hip in Game 4 against the Mavericks.  Perkins will be needed inside to help battle LA's 7-foot duo of power forward Pau Gasol and center Andrew Bynum.

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