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THE STORY: After delivering one of their top performances of the postseason, the Boston Celtics seek to take a 3-1 lead in their second-round series with Philadelphia when they visit the 76ers in Friday’s Game 4. Boston led by as many as 27 points in posting a 107-91 win on Wednesday while answering critics who had pegged the Celtics as ripe to be upset by the younger 76ers. Philadelphia needs a strong bounce-back effort to even the series.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
ABOUT THE CELTICS: Forward Kevin Garnett has turned back the clock with a string of solid playoff performances and has four consecutive double-doubles. He is averaging 23.7 points and 12 rebounds against the 76ers after recording 27 points (on 12 of 17 shooting) and 13 rebounds in Game 3. Point guard Rajon Rondo has dished out 27 assists with just two turnovers over the last two games. Rondo had 23 points and 14 assists in Game 3. Forward Paul Pierce’s gimpy left knee didn’t prevent him from posting 24 points and 12 rebounds in Game 3 after averaging just 10.5 points over the first two games. Boston committed just seven turnovers in the impressive victory.
ABOUT THE 76ERS: Forward Thaddeus Young had his best outing of the postseason with 22 points but several Philadelphia players struggled in the Game 3 loss. Starters Spencer Hawes, Evan Turner and Elton Brand were a combined 4-for-24 shooting and totaled just 11 points. All-Star Andre Iguodala had just 10 points and two assists in his worst game of the series. Philadelphia badly needs a breakout game from explosive backup Lou Williams, who is shooting just 32.4 percent from the field. Williams had 13 points in Game 3 for his best scoring output of the series.
- 76ers are 2-7 ATS in their last nine home games.
- Celtics are 4-1 ATS in their last five road games.
- Celtics are 3-7 ATS in the last 10 meetings.
1. Philadelphia had won four consecutive home playoff games before Boston’s decisive Game 3 victory.
2. Celtics forward Mickael Pietrus provided a boost with 13 points in Game 3 for his first double-digit outing of the postseason.
3. Sixers guard Jrue Holiday has made seven of 10 3-point attempts while averaging 16.5 points over the last two contests.
Oklahoma City Thunder at Los Angeles Lakers (-2.5, 192)
THE STORY: The Los Angeles Lakers looked like they had the Oklahoma City Thunder all figured out in Game 2 of their Western Conference second-round series. One monumental collapse later, the Lakers find themselves in a dreaded 0-2 hole as they prepare to host Game 3 on Friday night. Los Angeles squandered a seven-point advantage in the last two minutes as Kobe Bryant struggled down the stretch and Steve Blake missed a 3-point attempt that would have put the Lakers ahead with three seconds left.
TV: 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
ABOUT THE THUNDER: Oklahoma City missed 20 of its first 27 shots in the second half of Wednesday's game, but put together two sensational minutes to storm back for a 77-75 win. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook forced a pair of Bryant turnovers while Harden blocked a Bryant jumper before racing down court and finishing off the play with a layup. Durant then finished off the stunning comeback with a tricky seven-foot jumper with 18 seconds left. "All I told the guys was, 'We're down seven. You don't have to play perfect basketball, but we better come pretty close,'" head coach Scott Brooks said afterward.
ABOUT THE LAKERS: Everyone at the Chesapeake Energy Center knew Bryant was the Lakers' go-to-guy on the final possession - but Metta World Peace opted to pass the ball to an open Blake, who misfired from 23 feet to complete the Los Angeles collapse. Lakers head coach Mike Brown said Bryant was open on the play, but World Peace didn't see him. "Blake was wide open. We didn't have any timeouts left and he got a clean look, a really good look," he said. "He can knock that down." Bryant, who finished with 20 points, credited the Thunder with taking risks on the defensive end down the stretch.
- Lakers are 5-13 ATS in their last 18 home games.
- Thunder are 4-1 ATS in their last five road games.
- Over is 13-6 in the Lakers' last 19 games as a home favorite.
1. The Lakers finished with just five fast-break points in Game 2.
2. The teams won't get any rest, with Game 4 set for Saturday night at the Staples Center.
3. Oklahoma City's comeback bore resemblance to Game 1 of its first-round series against Dallas, when it trailed by seven with 2 1/2 minutes left before rallying to win.
Friday’s betting tips: Rockies roll in interleague home games
Weather to watch
Seattle Mariners at Colorado Rockies – 12 mph winds are expected to blow out to right-centerfield.
NBA: Celtics are 4-1 ATS in their last five road games.
NBA: Under is 13-6 in Thunder last 19 road games.
MLB: White Sox are 4-1 in their last five meetings with the Cubs.
MLB: The Rockies are 37-14 in their last 51 interleague home games.
NBA: 76ers are 2-7 ATS in their last nine home games.
NBA: Lakers are 5-13 ATS in their last 18 home games.
MLB: Athletics are 0-9 in the last nine meetings in San Francisco.
MLB: Astros are 7-20 in their last 27 interleague home games.
44 percent – The Philadelphia 76ers have yet to shoot 44 percent from the field in a game yet this postseason. The Sixers shot just 40.7 percent from the floor in Game 3’s loss, while Boston drained 51.9 percent of its shots.
Injury that shouldn’t be overlooked
Brandon Inge, Oakland Athletics – The A’s placed veteran third baseman Brandon Inge on the 15-day DL with a groin strain. Inge was on a major tear before hitting the shelf, swatting four homers and collecting 16 RBIs over a six-game stretch.
Game of the day
Boston Celtics at Philadelphia 76ers (-2, 173.5)
“Oh my goodness, we’re better than Santa Claus. Gave them a gift. Man that was crazy. We’re better than Santa Claus, we like giving out gifts. We give out games, contracts and rings.” – Lakers center Andrew Bynum following Game 2’s 77-75 loss to Oklahoma City. The Lakers are pegged as 2.5-point favorites at home for Game 3.
Notes and tips
Los Angeles Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto relieved hitting coach Mickey Hatcher of his duties Tuesday, replacing him with Triple-A hitting coach Jim Eppard. Hatcher had been on Mike Scioscia's coaching staff since Scioscia became manager in 2000 and was the longest-tenured hitting coach in baseball. Dipoto said the club needed a “new voice” and it’s hard to argue with his assessment. The Angels were hitting .253 as a team with 34 home runs heading into Thursday’s action.
As London prepares for this summer’s Olympics, a number of online sportbooks already have odds posted for the total medal count. Sportsbook.ag opened with the United States set as a -140 favorite to win the medal count but that number has since dipped to -125. China sits second at +125 while Russia is third on the odds board at +800.
The St. Louis Cardinals are expected to be without Allen Craig for a few days after he left Wednesday’s game with a tight hamstring. The 27-year-old is hitting .373 with five homers and 19 RBI in only 13 games this year.
Even though Kevin Durant was the Oklahoma City Thunder player who finished second in the NBA MVP voting, it was Russell Westbrook who really crushed the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals. So the Lakers came back in Game 2 Wednesday night with a new plan against Westbrook: No more Kobe Bryant trying to stay in front of Westbrook and fight solo through the picks set by the Thunder for Westbrook to come free. The more aggressive plan headed by Ramon Sessions and Steve Blake worked beautifully, as Westbrook was held to 5-of-17 shooting from the field and just four assists, but the Lakers still lost 77-75 with a late-game meltdown as Durant and James Harden stepping up for the Thunder.