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NBA Playoff Picks
With one team advancing in the NBA's Eastern Conference playoffs on Wednesday and two more going to a Game 6 in the West, there are three series that could either end on Thursday or get extended depending on the outcomes. All three home teams are favored yet again, with two of them looking to advance to the next round with wins.
The sixth-seeded Denver Nuggets (-1.5) are the only team that would not move on yet with a victory in the West because they trail the third-seeded Los Angeles Lakers 3-2 heading into Game 6. The Nuggets staved off elimination with a 102-99 win at LA in Game 5 on Tuesday and will be trying to force a Game 7 back there on Saturday.
Kobe Bryant's game-high 43 points were not enough for the Lakers, who failed to cover the 6-point spread as home favorites and trailed by as many as 15 points in the fourth on their home court. Denver has not beaten Los Angeles in consecutive games in the previous 10 meetings though, going 3-7 straight-up and 6-4 against the spread in those games.
The other two home teams playing on Thursday both have an opportunity to advance to the next round in the East and would end up playing each other if they each win. The eighth-seeded Philadelphia 76ers (-3) and fourth-seeded Boston Celtics (-6.5) would meet if they can beat the top-seeded Chicago Bulls and fifth-seeded Atlanta Hawks, respectively.
The Bulls have battled numerous injuries throughout the season and in the playoffs, and they are hoping to get center Joakim Noah back from an ankle injury he suffered in Game 3. Noah has missed the last two games, and Omer Asik has totaled five points and 12 rebounds combined during that stretch to go along with six blocks. Chicago is already without reigning MVP Derrick Rose due to a torn ACL, and reserve forward Taj Gibson also injured his ankle in a 77-69 win in Game 5 at home on Tuesday. The 76ers shot just 32 percent from the field in the loss.
The Hawks are also trying to return home for a Game 7 and edged the Celtics 87-86 in Game 5 on Tuesday thanks to center/forward Al Horford, who was playing only his second game in nearly four months after returning from a torn pectoral muscle. Horford had 19 points and 11 rebounds and stripped Boston's Rajon Rondo of the ball in the final seconds to preserve the victory.
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