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NBA Playoff Betting Update

5/16/12

Of the four playoff teams in action on Monday night, one of them looked like a serious NBA title contender. The second-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder dominated the third-seeded Los Angeles Lakers from the start in a 119-90 rout in Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinal series despite getting outrebounded by a 43-41 margin.
 
 The Thunder got a combined 52 points from point guard Russell Westbrook and small forward Kevin Durant while NBA Sixth Man of the Year James Harden added 17 off the bench. Harden struggled a bit with his long-range shooting, missing all four of his 3-point attempts, but he made up for that at the free-throw line by connecting on 9 of 10 shots. Westbrook and Durant also totaled 15 rebounds and 13 assists between them as Oklahoma City covered the 7.5-point spread. The Thunder are 7.5-point favorites again in Game 3.
 
 The Lakers got solid production from their big men, as center Andrew Bynum and power forward Pau Gasol combined for 30 points and 21 rebounds, but star guard Kobe Bryant scored 20 on 7 of 18 shooting from the field and made just 5 of 7 free-throw attempts. LA as a team made 13 of 15 from the charity stripe compared to 24 of 29 for Oklahoma City. The Lakers were outscored in each of the first three quarters before holding a 22-21 advantage in the fourth when the game was already decided with the Thunder up by 30 points. Bettors should expect Los Angeles head coach Mike Brown to make adjustments for Game 3 and the free-throw differential to even out.
 
 In the Eastern Conference, the fourth-seeded Boston Celtics and the eighth-seeded Philadelphia 76ers have split the first two games of their semifinal series with each team winning by one point. The 76ers (-2) went 2-0 against the spread in those games as underdogs and return home after winning Game 2 on the road Monday, 82-81. Philly point guard Jrue Holiday scored a game-high 18 points in the victory, and the Sixers as a team were able to hit 6 of 6 free throws in the last 12 seconds to hold off the Celtics.
 
 Boston has outscored Philadelphia in the fourth quarter of both games so far and will need to find a way to start better on the road in Game 3 after having homecourt advantage in the first two. The Celtics only made it to the free-throw line nine times in Game 2 while the 76ers converted 15 of 21. They are also trying to find a reliable scorer since small forward Paul Pierce is dealing with a knee injury. Pierce has made only 5 of 20 shots from the field in the first two games combined.

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