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Friday's NBA playoff action: What bettors need to know

New York Knicks at Boston Celtics (-3, 182.5)

New York leads series 2-0.


The New York Knicks feature the league's leading scorer in Carmelo Anthony, but it's the team's defense that has driven home one point to the Boston Celtics: You can't win if you can't score. Boston will attempt to dig out of a 2-0 hole in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference series when they host the Knicks on Friday night. It figures to be an emotionally charged atmosphere in the first home game for the Celtics since the Boston Marathon bombings.

Anthony has done his part by pouring in 70 points in the first two games, but New York has taken control by suffocating Boston in the second half of each contest. The Celtics are averaging a meager 74.5 points and have been limited to 25 and 23 points, respectively, after halftime. The latter mark tied an NBA postseason record for the fewest points scored in a half. "We know when we really buckle down on the defensive end, it's been hard for teams," Anthony understated.

TV: 8 p.m. ET, ESPN, MSG (New York), CSNNE (Boston)

ABOUT THE KNICKS: Anthony has continued his brilliant play by scoring at least 30 points in nine of his last 10 games and Sixth Man of the Year J.R. Smith is delivering his typical spark off the bench to carry New York's offense. Still, one of the biggest keys for the Knicks has been guard Raymond Felton, who has totaled 29 points and is the only other player on the team to score in double figures in both games. "He's killing us," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said.  "Getting into the paint, attacking us. ... We have to do a better job on that. Wish I could make a better statement. We have to keep him out of the paint."

ABOUT THE CELTICS: One of Boston's biggest question marks entering the series was the health of center Kevin Garnett, who missed 10 of the final 13 games of the regular season with a sprained ankle. Garnett has scored 22 points in the first two games and was saddled with foul trouble throughout Tuesday's 87-71 loss. Complicating matters is that the Garnett suffered a hip injury in Game 2, which Rivers likened to a hip-pointer in football. Rivers pronounced Garnett is "good to go," while noting how problematic the early fouls were in Game 2. "It hurt us, it was clear," Rivers said. "He really never was allowed to get his rhythm again."

TRENDS:


* Under is 5-0 in the last five meetings.
* Under is 5-1 in the last six meetings in Boston.
* Knicks are 5-1 ATS in the last six meetings in Boston.
* Knicks are 4-1 ATS in the last five meetings.
* Road team is 10-4 ATS in the last 14 meetings.

BUZZER BEATERS:


1. New York is averaging 86 points in the series, 14 below its regular-season mark.

2. The Celtics have shot a combined 14-of-62 (22.6 percent) in the second half of the first two contests.

3. Knicks backup C Kenyon Martin has been a force on the backboards, averaging 10 rebounds in the series.

San Antonio Spurs at Los Angeles Lakers (+4.5, 187.5)


San Antonio leads series 2-0.

The Los Angeles Lakers are in dire need of a victory entering Friday's Game 3 of their Western Conference playoff series against the San Antonio Spurs. However, their home court may not prove be much of an advantage if they are unable to get their guard unit out of the infirmary. Los Angeles is expected to be without its top four backcourt players Friday after starting guards Steve Nash and Steve Blake suffered hamstring injuries in Wednesday's Game 2.

The Lakers are already without superstar Kobe Bryant and top reserve guard Jodie Meeks missed Game 2 with a sprained ankle, making a comeback against the Spurs even more daunting. San Antonio had its own injury concerns entering the series, but ailing guards Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili appear to be on the mend after both were hobbled down the stretch. Parker's performance on Wednesday could be an ominous sign for Los Angeles after he broke loose for 24 of his 28 points in the second half to break the game open.

TV: 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN, Fox Sports Southwest (San Antonio), Time Warner Cable SportsNet (Los Angeles)

ABOUT THE SPURS: Parker was having the best season of his career until suffering a severely sprained ankle on March 1. He was the driving force during a scintillating stretch in which San Antonio won 16 of 17 games, scoring at least 30 points six times in a span of nine games to elevate himself into MVP consideration. Parker has also been fighting knee, shin and neck injuries, but he dominated the second half Wednesday and later admitted it was the best he's felt "by far" since hurting his ankle. "He's getting his rhythm back," teammate Tim Duncan said after the game. "He felt good tonight. He shot the ball well tonight. He looked like Tony of midseason tonight and that's great for us."

ABOUT THE LAKERS: Blake has been ruled out and Nash and Meeks are listed as doubtful for Friday, which fill force the Lakers to rely on second-year guards Darius Morris and Andrew Goudelock along with journeyman Chris Duhon, who did not even play Wednesday. The strategy of forcing the offense through the big men failed when center Dwight Howard encountered foul trouble and scored only six of his 16 points after halftime in Game 2. Forward Pau Gasol also disappeared in the second half, managing only three points and one rebound following a 16-point, 16-board performance in the opener. Blake could wind up being the hardest player to replace after he buried 17 3-pointers in his last five games.

TRENDS:

* Under is 9-2 in the last 11 meetings in Los Angeles.
* Under is 20-7 in the last 27 meetings.
* Spurs are 5-2 ATS in the last seven meetings.
* Favorite is 5-2 ATS in the last seven meetings.

BUZZER BEATERS:

1. Duncan - who turned 37 Thursday - and coach Gregg Popovich surpassed Bryant and Phil Jackson on Wednesday for the most career postseason wins by a player-coach duo with 119.

2. Mike D'Antoni is the first coach in franchise history to lose his first two playoff games with the Lakers.

3. San Antonio has a 72-34 edge in bench points through the first two games.

Denver Nuggets at Golden State Warriors (-1, 212.5)


Series tied 1-1.

No David Lee, no problem for the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors won without their All-Star in Game 2 and will be looking to take the series lead when they host the Denver Nuggets in Game 3 on Friday. Golden State became the first team to win in Denver since January by shooting 64.6 percent in Game 2 and getting 30 points and 13 assists from Stephen Curry. The Nuggets will need to adjust to the Warriors’ smaller lineup.

Denver edged the Warriors in Game 1 on a last-second shot by Andre Miller but could not figure out a way around Golden State in Game 2. Instead of moving Carl Landry into the starting lineup when Lee went down with a torn hip flexor in Game 1, Warriors coach Mark Jackson decided to feature a three-guard attack with Jarrett Jack in the starting lineup and Harrison Barnes pushing over to power forward. The quicker lineup was able to match the Nuggets’ pace and its superior outside shooting led to a relatively easy 131-117 triumph. As long as Curry is healthy, that shooting should be a feature for Game 3.

TV: 10:30 p.m. ET, Altitude (Denver), Comcast SportsNet Bay Area (Golden State), ESPN2

ABOUT THE NUGGETS: Denver struggled on the glass even with Lee out and could not get out on the break in Game 2. The easy points in the paint the team thrives on were taken away, and the Nuggets struggled to 9-for-26 from beyond the arc. Kenneth Faried missed Game 1 with an ankle injury and came off the bench in Game 2 without the explosiveness that usually highlights his game. Faried getting his feet back under him would help Denver even up the rebounding discrepancy and provide someone else that can finish in the paint and make Barnes work harder on the defensive end. The Nuggets’ best performers in the opening two games have been the point guards Miller and Ty Lawson. Miller’s heroics saved Game 1 and the two combined for 37 points on Tuesday.

ABOUT THE WARRIORS: Curry rolled his left ankle late in the third quarter of Game 3 but came back for the start of the fourth and finished strong. The ankle swelled up after the game, and Golden State’s leading scorer sat out Thursday’s practice. Curry told reporters he would not have been able to play if the game were held on Thursday, but is still confident that he’ll be ready by tip off on Friday. Losing Curry would be a huge blow to the Warriors without Lee around. “We’re a resilient team,“ Curry said after Game 2. “When guys go down, other guys step up.” Curry, Jack and Klay Thompson overwhelmed the Nuggets on the perimeter in Game 2, totaling 77 points and 22 assists while going 10-for-17 from beyond the arc. Denver did not have an answer for Barnes’ quickness at the No. 4 spot and the rookie provided some highlight drives and dunks.

TRENDS:


* Over is 16-5 in the last 21 meetings in Golden State.
* Nuggets are 10-3 ATS in their last 13 vs. NBA Pacific.
* Warriors are 5-0 ATS in their last five games overall.
* Over is 11-3-1 in Nuggets' last 15 road games.

BUZZER BEATERS:

1. The teams split the two meetings at Golden State during the regular season, with the Nuggets grabbing a 107-101 overtime victory on Nov. 10 and the Warriors responding with a 106-105 triumph 19 days later.

2. Golden State’s 64.6-percent shooting effort was the highest in a playoff game since the Utah Jazz shot 65.1 percent in a win over Phoenix on April 25, 1991.

3. Faried could move back into the starting lineup in Game 3.

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