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Lakers on the Brink

5/21/12

Another NBA playoff series could come to an end in the Western Conference on Monday while two other teams tied up in the Eastern Conference will be trying to take a 3-2 lead. The second-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder can punch their ticket to the Western Conference Finals with a Game 5 victory at home against the Los Angeles Lakers and join the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs, who knocked out the fifth-seeded Los Angeles Clippers by completing a four-game sweep on Sunday.

The Thunder rallied back for a 103-100 victory at LA in Game 4 on Saturday after trailing by as many as 13 points in the fourth quarter, putting the Lakers on the brink of elimination in the second round for the second time in as many years. Lakers star Kobe Bryant scored a game-high 38 points, but Oklahoma City saw Russell Westbrook total a team-high 36 while leading scorer Kevin Durant added 31 and hit the game-winning 3-pointer with 13.7 seconds remaining. The Thunder are 8-point favorites to close out Los Angeles in Game 5, and the hottest team in the NBA awaits them in San Antonio with a trip to the NBA Finals on the line. They are 5-2-1 against the spread in the last eight meetings with the Lakers.

The Spurs won their 18th straight game dating back to the regular season with a 102-99 victory against the Clippers, and they are a remarkable 15-2-1 ATS during that stretch. San Antonio and Oklahoma City are on a collision course to meet in the Western Conference Finals, and the only way that will not happen now is if the Lakers were to somehow pull off three straight wins.

The Eastern Conference semifinals have much more competitive, with each series guaranteed to go at least six games. The fourth-seeded Boston Celtics are back home looking to seize control of their series with the eighth-seeded Philadelphia 76ers, who rebounded from a poor effort in the first half of Game 4 to win 92-83 and even things up at 2-2. Philadelphia trailed 46-31 at halftime but sparked the rally with a 12-1 run in the third quarter to close the gap.

Boston center/forward Kevin Garnett has been hot and cold offensively through the first four games, combining for 57 points in Games 1 and 3 and totaling 24 points in Games 2 and 4. Garnett made just 3 of 12 shots from the field in Game 4 and also turned the ball over a game-high seven times. The Celtics (-5.5) have seen the Sixers cover seven of the last 10 meetings, including three of the first four games of this series.

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