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Both Los Angeles NBA teams will try to finish off their first-round playoff opponents at the Staples Center starting on Friday when the fifth-seeded Clippers host the fourth-seeded Memphis Grizzlies in Game 6 of their best-of-seven series. The third-seeded Lakers will also be forced to play a deciding Game 7 at home on Saturday after they were routed on the road by the sixth-seeded Denver Nuggets in Game 6 on Thursday, 113-96.
The Clippers hold a 3-2 lead on the Grizzlies and must win in LA to avoid a Game 7 in Memphis on Sunday. They are dealing with key injuries to their two best players in point guard Chris Paul (strained hip and jammed finger) and forward Blake Griffin (sprained knee), although both players are expected to be on the court as the team attempts to win just its second playoff series since 1976. Forward Caron Butler is also suffering from a hand injury but only missed Game 2.
The Lakers were up 3-1 in their series with Denver but have now lost two straight, something they had not done in the previous 10 meetings. While star Kobe Bryant was a game-time decision with a stomach problem, he was the only one on his team to show up with 31 points on 13 of 23 shooting. Center Andrew Bynum got off to a slow start and finished with 11 points and 16 rebounds, but fellow 7-footer Pau Gasol was a virtual no-show with three points on 1 of 10 shooting and three rebounds.
Gasol's poor effort helped offset a disappointing performance from Denver's JaVale McGee, who had exploded for 21 points and 14 rebounds in Game 5. McGee had two points, five rebounds and five fouls for the Nuggets in their victory, but point guard Ty Lawson picked up the slack with a game-high 32 points on 13 of 18 shooting, including 5 of 6 from 3-point range. Denver will likely need to get solid play from both its frontcourt and backcourt to advance to the next round.
The best two teams in the Western Conference are awaiting the winners of those two series, as the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs and second-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder each swept their opponents in four games. However, the Eastern Conference matchups are set for the second round with the eighth-seeded Philadelphia 76ers facing the fourth-seeded Boston Celtics and the second-seeded Miami Heat meeting the third-seeded Indiana Pacers.
The 76ers eliminated the top-seeded Chicago Bulls with a 79-78 victory in Game 6 on Thursday and will visit Boston in Game 1 of their conference semifinal series on Saturday. The Celtics also knocked out the fifth-seeded Atlanta Hawks with an 83-80 win on Thursday. The Pacers will visit the Heat in Game 1 on Sunday after both teams eliminated their first-round foes in five games.
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