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Sunday's NBA Playoff action: What bettors need to know

Chicago Bulls at Philadelphia 76ers (-2.5, 174)

Philadelphia leads series 2-1

THE STORY: It is quickly becoming clear that the Chicago Bulls may not have enough offense to advance in the playoffs without Derrick Rose. The Bulls fell apart in the fourth quarter on Friday, getting outscored 28-14 in the period en route to a 79-74 loss. The Philadelphia 76ers are taking advantage of Rose’s absence by turning to their backcourt for offense. Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner have keyed the offense as the 76ers have taken back-to-back games.

TV: 1 p.m. ET, ABC

ABOUT THE BULLS: No. 1 seed Chicago dominated Game 1 behind Rose but has been an entirely different team the past two games as their star sits with a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Fellow All-Star Luol Deng has failed to step up in Rose’s place, totaling 15 points on 5-of-19 shooting over the last two games. The Bulls went 2 for 18 from the floor and missed all four of their free throw attempts in the final 9:33 on Friday, squandering a 14-point lead. Making matters worse, Joakim Noah went down with a sprained left ankle in the third quarter. He returned to the fourth but was noticeably hobbled. Noah left the arena on crutches, with his ankle in an air cast, and his status for Sunday‘s Game 4 is uncertain.

ABOUT THE 76ERS: Philadelphia is firmly in control of the series at this point, ready to grab a commanding 3-1 lead at home on Sunday. Holiday and Turner have been the key the last two games, averaging a combined 39 points. Spencer Hawes stepped up with 21 points and nine rebounds in Game 3 and Lou Williams has picked up his pace off the bench in the two wins. Coach Doug Collins made a switch to his lineup after Game 1, inserting Hawes and Turner into the starting five. Those moves, combined with an injury-weakened opponent, have sparked the 76ers on offense.

TRENDS:

* Favorite is 4-1 ATS in the last five meetings.
* Over is 7-2-1 in the last 10 meetings in Philadelphia.
* Over is 14-5-1 in the last 20 meetings.

BUZZER BEATERS:

1. The 74 points on Friday were the fewest ever allowed by Philadelphia in the postseason.

2. The Bulls went 6 for 24 from the field in the fourth quarter of Game 3.

3. 76ers F Andre Iguodala has played through an Achilles injury in the series and slumped to five points on 2-of-9 shooting Friday.

Miami Heat at New York Knicks (+8, 183)

Miami leads the series 3-0

THE STORY: The Miami Heat are within a game of advancing to the Eastern Conference semifinals. The Heat have dominated the first three games against the New York Knicks, setting the tone on the defensive end and getting out in transition with ease. The Knicks are dealing with a pair of major injuries to their starting five and Carmelo Anthony has struggled to find a rhythm offensively under relentless pressure. The Heat will go for the sweep Sunday at Madison Square Garden.

TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC

ABOUT THE HEAT: Miami took a while to get going Thursday but LeBron James put the team on his back in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Knicks by himself in the period en route to an 87-70 triumph. James, who got a rude reception from the Madison Square Garden crowd, finished with 32 points and eight rebounds. Dwyane Wade is averaging 21.3 points in the series and Miami has had supporting players step up in each of the three contests. Mike Miller and Shane Battier were strong in the first two games and Mario Chalmers took over in Game 3, burying five 3-pointers to stretch the floor for James and Wade.

ABOUT THE KNICKS: Amar'e Stoudemire (hand) is doubtful for Friday and Jeremy Lin (knee) is still not ready to return, leaving Anthony and J.R. Smith as the main scoring threats for New York. The Knicks used the home crowd to gather some momentum in Game 3, carrying a lead into the half, but could not withstand the defensive pressure in the second half and crumbled down the stretch. Anthony scored 22 points but shot just 7 for 23 from the field in Game 3. He is shooting 34.3 percent (22 for 64) in the series. Only three players reached double figures in the Game 3 loss and New York has been beaten by an average of 20 points in the series.

TRENDS:

* Heat are 5-0 ATS in the last five meetings.
* Under is 4-0 in the last four meetings in New York.
* Favorite is 5-0 ATS in the last five meetings.
* Under is 8-1-1 in the last 10 meetings.
* Heat are 5-1 ATS in the last six meetings in New York.

BUZZER BEATERS:

1. The Knicks have lost 13 straight postseason games, breaking the NBA record for playoff futility.

2. New York C Tyson Chandler was given the NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award prior to Game 3. James finished fourth in the balloting.

3. The Heat were a combined plus-32 on Thursday when James, Wade and Bosh were on the court together.

Atlanta Hawks at Boston Celtics (-5.5, 172)

Boston leads series 2-1

THE STORY: Rajon Rondo made his presence felt in his return from suspension and seeks another memorable performance when the Boston Celtics host the Atlanta Hawks in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference series on Sunday. Rondo etched his seventh career playoff triple-double to fuel a 90-84 overtime victory on Friday as the Celtics took a 2-1 lead. Atlanta forward Josh Smith remains questionable with a knee injury after missing Game 3. Boston has won the last two games.

TV: 7 p.m. ET, TNT, Sport South (Atlanta), Comcast SportsNet New England (Boston)

ABOUT THE HAWKS: Atlanta was so shorthanded in the frontcourt in Game 3 that Tracy McGrady spent most of his season-high 41 minutes playing power forward and center Erick Dampier racked up more than 22 minutes after playing less than 10 minutes total over the final five-plus weeks of the season. Joe Johnson (29 points) and Jeff Teague (23) did their best to rally the Hawks in the fourth quarter, but Boston was stronger in the overtime. “There were a few possessions it seemed no one could score,” Johnson said. “We definitely felt like we let one get away. We felt like this was our chance to get one.”

ABOUT THE CELTICS: Rondo had 17 points, 14 rebounds, 12 assists and four steals in a terrific performance. Rondo has 20 career triple-doubles and Boston has a 19-1 record in those contests. Jason Kidd (11) is the only active player with more career playoff triple-doubles. Rondo also scored Boston’s first four points of overtime in his return from a one-game suspension for bumping official Marc Davis. “I felt good about all the shots I took,” Rondo said. “My teammates told me to stay aggressive.” Paul Pierce hit all 14 of his free-throw attempts and scored 21 points and Kevin Garnett had 20 points and 13 rebounds.

TRENDS:

* Hawks are 4-1 ATS in the last five meetings in Boston.
* Over is 5-2 in the last seven meetings in Boston.
* Under is 5-2 in the last seven meetings.
* Road team is 5-1 ATS in the last six meetings.
* Underdog is 6-1 ATS in the last seven meetings.

BUZZER BEATERS:

1. Pierce will play in his 109th playoff game Sunday, tying Bob Cousy and Dennis Johnson for 10th on Boston’s all-time list.

2. McGrady scored 10 of his 12 points in Game 3 in the second quarter before tweaking an ankle and later returning.

3. Boston guard Ray Allen (ankle) had 13 points in his first outing since April 10.

Los Angeles Lakers at Denver Nuggets (-2, 201)


Los Angeles leads series 2-1


THE STORY:
The Denver Nuggets have guaranteed themselves a return trip to Los Angeles, but making the flight may not be futile unless they can take down the visiting Lakers for a second straight time when the teams meet in Game 4 of their Western Conference playoff series on Sunday. After losing twice in Los Angeles, the Nuggets cut the series deficit to 2-1 with an impressive 99-84 victory Friday night, blitzing the Lakers early and standing tall late to fend off a comeback.

TV:
9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN, ALT

ABOUT THE LAKERS: A pair of unsettling themes plagued Los Angeles in Game 3. Superstar guard Kobe Bryant continued to shoot like he's playing in a wind tunnel at the Pepsi Center. Bryant was a mere 7 of 23 from the floor, following up two regular-season games in Denver in which he shot a combined 13 of 51. That equals a wretched 27 percent in three games in the Mile High City. Meanwhile, center Andrew Bynum pulled a perplexing disappearing act in the first half, failing to score as the undersized Nuggets built an early 24-point lead. Bynum did finish with a double-double (18 points, 12 rebounds), but the first-half no-show was a pivotal factor.

ABOUT THE NUGGETS:
While point guard Ty Lawson scored 25 points and was the catalyst for Denver's spectacular start that including a 28-2 blitz spanning the first and second quarters, Denver received massive contributions from rookie forward Kenneth Faried and backup center JaVale McGee in Game 3. The 6-foot-8 Faried, known as the "Manimal," went toe-to-toe with Los Angeles’ twin towers Bynum and Pau Gasol and emerged with 12 points and 15 rebounds. McGee, who was acquired from the Washington Wizards at the trade deadline for veteran center Nene, also had a double-double with 16 points and 15 rebounds to go with four blocked shots to help Denver to a 54-44 edge on the backboards.

TRENDS:


* Nuggets are 10-4-1 ATS in their 15 playoff games as favorites.
* Under is 4-0 in the last four meetings in Denver.
* Lakers are 0-5 ATS in their last four playoff games as underdogs.
* Under is 10-3 in Denver's last 13 games as a favorite.

BUZZER BEATERS:


1. McGee has three double-doubles since he was acquired by Denver and two have come against the Lakers.

2. Los Angeles received only nine points from its bench compared to 39 for the Nuggets.

3. Nuggets F Al Harrington suffered a fractured nose when he was elbowed by Bynum. He said he plans to play in Game 4 but may be forced to wear a mask.

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