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THE STORY: The Boston Celtics take a second stab at clinching their first-round series when they host the Atlanta Hawks on Thursday. Atlanta cut Boston’s lead to 3-2 in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference matchup by notching an 87-86 victory in Tuesday’s Game 5. The Hawks are vying to become the ninth team in NBA history to overcome a 3-1 deficit. The Celtics would like to wrap up the series at home and avoid a Game 7 in Atlanta on Saturday.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, TNT, Sport South (Atlanta), Comcast SportsNet New England (Boston)
ABOUT THE HAWKS: Center Al Horford started for the first time in nearly four months and had 19 points and 11 rebounds and also hit the go-ahead basket. Horford played 41 minutes in his second game since tearing a pectoral muscle in January. Horford’s presence has bolstered a squad that looked ready to go quietly after forward Josh Smith missed Game 3 with a knee injury. Smith had 13 points and 16 rebounds in Game 5 and is averaging 16.5 points and 14.8 rebounds in the series. Guard Joe Johnson is averaging a team-leading 17.2 points despite shooting just 23.3 percent from 3-point range.
ABOUT THE CELTICS: Boston had a chance to clinch in the final seconds of Game 5 after Rajon Rondo stole an inbounds pass for his fifth steal of the contest, but the Celtics were unable to get off a shot as Rondo fumbled the ball. Rondo is averaging 17.5 points, 12.8 assists and four steals in the four games in which he has played. Forward Paul Pierce is struggling physically with his ailing left knee and had 16 points and is averaging a team-leading 21.8 points. Guard Ray Allen is playing well despite his ankle injury and averaging 13.3 points off the bench.
- The Hawks are 7-3 ATS in their last 10 games as a road underdog.
- The Celtics are 10-3 ATS in their last 13 games as a home favorite.
- Over is 17-5 in Hawks' last 22 overall.
1. Atlanta’s 87 points in Game 5 were its most in the series, while Boston has scored fewer than 86 points just once.
2. Hawks forward Marvin Williams was a big contributor in Game 5 with 15 points after scoring a total of 16 points over the first four games.
3. Celtics forward Kevin Garnett has just 12 combined rebounds over the last two games after averaging 12.3 per game over the first three contests.
Chicago Bulls at Philadelphia 76ers (-3, 169)
THE STORY: The Chicago Bulls stepped up on the verge of elimination Tuesday, turning in a stifling defensive effort to stay alive in the series. With Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah out, Luol Deng finally delivered an All-Star performance, burying key 3-pointers in the fourth quarter and finishing with a game-high 24 points as the Bulls pulled to within 3-2 in the series. The Philadelphia 76ers still have the advantage and will try to close it out at home in Game 6.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, CSCH (Chicago), CSN (Philadelphia), NBATV
ABOUT THE BULLS: Deng averaged eight points in the first three games without Rose but finally broke out in Game 5, becoming the offensive force that Chicago needed in the fourth quarter. Carlos Boozer was strong on the inside, scoring 12 of his 19 points in the third quarter to keep the Bulls clear and adding 13 rebounds. Chicago had another scary moment in the third quarter of Game 5, when Taj Gibson rolled his ankle and had to be taken to the locker room. The reserve forward returned in the fourth and is expected to play in Game 6. The Bulls are hoping to avoid becoming the fifth No. 1 seed to lose in the first round to a No. 8 seed.
ABOUT THE 76ERS: Philadelphia has not shot the ball well in any of the last three games but managed to pull out the first two thanks to some good execution down the stretch from Jrue Holiday and Andre Iguodala. The Bulls managed to slow those two on Tuesday, holding them to a combined 9 for 36 from the field. The 76ers scored just 26 points in the first half - the lowest half in franchise playoff history during the shot clock era. Spencer Hawes, who went over 20 points in Games 3 and 4, was held to 11 points on 4-of-9 shooting in Game 5 and was the focus of intense pressure by Boozer, Gibson and Omer Asik. Hawes ended up with a scratch on the left side of face running from his eye to his lip.
- The 76ers are 7-3 ATS in their last 10 games overall.
- The Bulls are 2-6 ATS in their last eight road games.
- The under is 9-2 in the Bulls' last 11 overall.
1. Noah is questionable for Game 6.
2. The Bulls gave swingman Ronnie Brewer a series-high 29 minutes off the bench on Tuesday as a defensive stopper on Holiday, Iguodala and Evan Turner.
3. Philadelphia F Thaddeus Young, who averaged 12.8 points in the regular season, was held scoreless on Tuesday and has not reached double figures in any of the last four games.
Los Angeles Lakers at Denver Nuggets (-1.5, 198)
THE STORY: Los Angeles Lakers center Andrew Bynum received a tutorial in his ongoing NBA education, watching the Denver Nuggets stave off elimination with a pulsating road win in Game 5. The Nuggets – admittedly fueled by Bynum's comments that close-out games can be easy – forced the series back to Denver for Game 6 on Thursday night and have a chance to deadlock the best-of-seven series at 3-3. Tuesday’s loss snapped a string of eight straight wins by the Lakers in potential close-out games.
TV: 10:30 p.m. ET, TNT, ALT
ABOUT THE LAKERS: A spectacular barrage of late 3-pointers by Kobe Bryant overshadowed a remarkably lackluster effort by Los Angeles in Game 5. While Bryant finished with 43 points, it speaks volumes to the Lakers' offensive inefficiency that reserve Matt Barnes took 14 shots – second only to Bryant. Barnes is 2 of 20 from behind the arc in the series, and the continued reliance on the perimeter game has prevented Los Angeles from exploiting its massive size advantage inside. Forward Pau Gasol's scoring average is down nearly five points from the regular season and his nine points in Game 5 marked the first time he failed to score in double figures since Jan. 22.
ABOUT THE NUGGETS: For those who thought backup center JaVale McGee's breakout performance in Game 3 was an aberration, guess again. The skywalking McGee scored 14 of his 21 points in the second half and grabbed a game-high 14 rebounds, including six on the offensive glass. Equally impressive was the stunning contributions of backup point guard Andre Miller, who had 24 points and eight rebounds and ignited the run that allowed Nuggets to build a 15-point fourth-quarter lead. Another key development was the awakening of shooting guard Arron Afflalo, who scored 19 points. He had netted only 36 points in the first four games after averaging 18.7 points in the final month of the season.
- The Lakers are 9-19 ATS in their last 28 games overall.
- The Nuggets are 7-2 ATS in their last nine games overall.
- The under is 22-7 in the last 29 meetings.
1. In four games at the Pepsi Center this season, Bryant is shooting a mere 30.3 percent (30 of 99).
2. The Lakers had not lost a close-out playoff game since 2006 against Phoenix.
3. Teams facing a 3-1 deficit have come back to win a series only eight times in NBA history.
Thursday’s betting tips: Umpire Jerry Meals loves road teams
NBA: The 76ers are 7-3 ATS in their last 10 games overall.
NBA: The Hawks are 9-4 ATS in their last 13 games as an underdog.
NBA: The Nuggets are 7-2 ATS in their last nine games overall.
MLB: The Blue Jays are 13-3 in the last 16 meetings in Minnesota.
NBA: The Bulls are 0-4 ATS in their last four playoff games as an underdog.
NBA: The over is 4-10 in Boston's last 14 games playing on one day of rest.
NBA: The Lakers are 9-19 ATS in their last 28 games overall.
MLB: The Indians are 5-12 in the last 17 meetings in Boston.
1 – Umpire Jerry Meals, who is scheduled to work Thursday’s Texas-Baltimore matchup, has seen just one home team win in his last 11 trips behind the plate.
Injury that shouldn’t be overlooked
Zaza Pachulia, Atlanta Hawks – The 6-foot-11 forward has been out of the lineup since April 13 with a sprained left foot but is now at least questionable for Game 6 against the Boston Celtics. Pachulia put up 7.8 points and 7.9 rebounds per game in the regular season. The Hawks are set as 6.5-point underdogs Thursday.
Game of the day
Los Angeles Lakers at Denver Nuggets (-1.5, 199)
"It was do or die. Nobody wants to get eliminated at home. You battle until you can't battle no more. I'll do everything in my power to play," he said. "I have all summer to lay back if we lose, so I'm going to lay it on the line." – Chicago Bulls forward Taj Gibson about leaving Game 5 with a sprained ankle only to return in the fourth quarter. Gibson battled hard with Elton Brand and finished with eight points seven rebounds and four blocks in Chicago’s 77-69 victory.
Notes and tips
So much for the Blue Jays' new and improved bullpen. The Blue Jays did not do much during the offseason, but they sure did rearrange their relievers. After all, last year's bullpen blew 25 saves. Some were in the same game and some in games the Blue Jays won. But they were only 33-for-58 in save opportunities. A little more than a month into this season, the new, improved bullpen has seven blown saves already. After Francisco Cordero, who has 329 career saves, coughed up his third save opportunity in five chances on Tuesday, the Blue Jays are now 4-for-11 in save opportunities. That has forced the team to move Casey Janssen into the closing role for now.
Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles says that his left knee is “80 percent” recovered from ACL surgery. "I feel I can do the same thing my teammates do," he said. "I do it without the coaches around. I catch the ball, I cut, I do a lot of drills and I've been doing this for two months." The Chiefs are set around +450 to win the AFC West.
The Lakers look to bounce back from their Game 5 loss and build on their 7-1 ATS record in their last 8 games as a road underdog of 1 to 4 1/2 points. LA is the pick (+1 1/2) according to Dunkel, which has the game Even. Dunkel Pick: LA Lakers (+1 1/2). Here are all of today's picks
Game 729-730: Chicago at Philadelphia (7:00 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Chicago 120.082; Philadelphia 120.886
Dunkel Line & Total: Philadelphia by 1; 167
Vegas Line & Total: Philadelphia by 3 1/2; 170 1/2
Dunkel Pick: Chicago (+3 1/2); Under
Game 731-732: Atlanta at Boston (8:00 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Atlanta 122.854; Boston 126.542
Dunkel Line & Total: Boston by 3 1/2; 176
Vegas Line & Total: Boston by 6 1/2; 173 1/2
Dunkel Pick: Atlanta (+6 1/2); Over
Game 733-734: LA Lakers at Denver (10:30 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: LA Lakers 120.695; Denver 120.742
Dunkel Line & Total: Even; 194
Vegas Line & Total: Denver by 1 1/2; 198
Dunkel Pick: LA Lakers (+1 1/2); Under
Thursday Playoff Tips
May 9, 2012
By Kevin Rogers
The Bulls, Nuggets, and Hawks all had their heads on the proverbial "chopping block" on Tuesday night each down 3-1 in their first round playoff series. However, the three teams survived with Game 5 victories, extending things to a Game 6 on Thursday. Denver returns home, while Atlanta and Chicago need to take care of business once again on the highway. We'll start in the City of Brotherly Love as the 76ers get another shot at knocking out the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
Bulls at 76ers - 7:05 PM EST (NBA TV)
Down Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, Chicago faced elimination head-on with a critical home victory on Tuesday over Philadelphia, 77-69. The Bulls covered as five-point favorites for the first time since Game 1, while limiting the 76ers to 32% shooting from the floor. The venue shifts to the Wells Fargo Center, as Philadelphia would like to close this series at home and not return to the Windy City for a potential Game 7.
Chicago's defense put together its best effort of the series without its top defender in Noah as the Sixers scored just 26 first half points. Jrue Holiday and Andre Iguodala combined to shoot 9-of-36 from the floor for 17 points, while the Sixers knocked down only two of 11 attempts from three-point range. The Bulls didn't shoot great from the floor by knocking down 42% of their tries, but Luol Deng stepped up with a game-high 24 point performance.
The 'under' has cashed in each of the last three games in this series following a pair of 'overs' in Games 1 and 2. After starting the season with an 8-2 SU/ATS mark as a home favorite off a loss, the Sixers are just 1-3 SU and 0-4 ATS the previous four games in this situation. The Bulls own a 12-4 SU and 10-6 ATS ledger on the road off a victory this season, while the 'under' is a perfect 5-0 when Chicago is an away underdog in this role.
Hawks at Celtics - 8:05 PM EST (TNT)
Atlanta survived a late Boston rally to force Game 6, as the Hawks held off the Celtics on Tuesday, 87-86. Boston barely cashed as two-point underdogs, the second straight cover for Doc Rivers' club. With the series headed back to TD Garden, Boston goes for its fifth consecutive home victory over Atlanta after capturing Games 3 and 4 in Beantown.
Al Horford turned in a terrific performance in only his second game back from a pectoral tear that kept the Hawks' All-Star out for four months. Horford broke an 83-83 tie with a personal 4-0 run to give Atlanta enough breathing room, in spite of a late Paul Pierce three-pointer. The Celtics failed to get a shot off on their final possession, even though the Big 4 of Pierce, Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett each put up at least 13 points.
Boston has compiled a solid 8-3 SU and 6-5 ATS record at home off a loss this season, including seven consecutive straight-up wins in this situation. Atlanta counters with a 10-2-1 ATS ledger on the road off a victory, but the Hawks have gone just 2-11 SU in the underdog role in this scenario.
Lakers at Nuggets - 10:35 PM EST (TNT)
Denver came out firing in the must-win Game 5 at Staples Center, leading by as many as 15 before holding off Los Angeles in a 102-99 triumph as six-point underdogs. The Nuggets send the series back to the Pepsi Center for Thursday's Game 6, as George Karl's team looks not only for continued production from his bench, but also a way to contain L.A.'s top scorer.
Kobe Bryant drilled a trio of three-pointers in the final minutes to pull the Lakers within one, but the former MVP and the Lakers came up short in spite of his 43-point performance. The two big keys for the Nuggets came off the pine as Javale McGee and Andre Miller combined to score 45 points, while shooting 17-of-23 from the field. The Lakers were held to 39% shooting, as Pau Gasol put up just nine points.
Los Angeles has won five of its past six games on the road off a loss, while going 8-1 straight-up in its last nine close-out opportunities in the playoffs. The Nuggets are just 3-7 SU and 1-9 ATS the previous 10 contests at home off a win, with the only cover coming in the final week of the season over a depleted Magic squad.
Play Over - Any team in a game involving two poor three point shooting teams (<=33%) after 42+ games.
290-182 since 1997. ( 61.4% 89.8 units )
26-18 this year. ( 59.1% 6.2 units )
NBA CHICAGO at PHILADELPHIA
Play Against - Road teams vs. the money line (CHICAGO) in a game involving two average offensive teams (92-98 PPG), after scoring 90 points or less 3 straight games
91-36 since 1997. ( 71.7% 41.1 units )
3-3 this year. ( 50.0% 0.6 units )
NBA CHICAGO at PHILADELPHIA
Play Under - Home teams where the first half total is 90.5 or less after going under the total by 30 or more points total in their last three games, with a winning record on the season.
145-82 since 1997. ( 63.9% 54.8 units )
8-3 this year. ( 72.7% 4.7 units )