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NBA playoffs: Sunday's East betting preview

New York Knicks at Boston Celtics (+2, 181.5)

Knicks lead best-of-seven series 3-0.

The Boston Celtics have a storied playoff history that is second to none in NBA annals, but they are in unchartered territory this postseason - courtesy of the New York Knicks. The Celtics have never lose the first three games of a playoff series and face the dubious task of trying to become the first team to erase a 3-0 deficit when they host the Knicks on Sunday in Game 4 of the best-of-seven series. New York pushed Boston to the brink of elimination with a 90-76 rout on Friday.

The Knicks are on the verge of their first postseason series win since the 1999-2000 season, and they are fully aware of the magnitude of accomplishing it in four straight games. "To be honest with you, to accomplish that would be spectacular," star forward Carmelo Anthony said. "It would be a dream come true." Anthony, the league's leading scorer during the regular season, has been the driving force behind New York's domination, averaging 32 points in the first three games. Sixth Man of the Year award winner J.R. Smith was ejected Friday for elbowing Boston's Jason Terry in the face.

TV: 1 p.m. ET, ABC

ABOUT THE KNICKS: New York C Tyson Chandler was named the NBA Defensive Player of the Year for 2011-12, but he missed 16 of the last 20 games of the regular season with knee and neck injuries and has contributed a total of only nine points while averaging six rebounds in three playoff games. Still, the Knicks have completely taken away the Celtics' offensive flow, with guards Raymond Felton and Pablo Prigioni dominating Boston's backcourt. Prigioni missed Game 1, when Avery Bradley scored 14 points, but he has limited Bradley to a combined eight points over the past two games while contributing nine points and five steals in Game 3.

ABOUT THE CELTICS: It's hard to imagine Boston winning a game, much less the series, following a string of feeble offensive performances. The Celtics have yet to score 80 points and are averaging a mere 75 in the three losses. Paul Pierce is averaging 18.7 points, but he's disappeared for long stretches, including a four-point first half in what was considered a must-win Friday night. He's been way off the mark from long range, connecting on 2-of-16 3-point attempts. "I think our 3-point game hasn’t really been there the whole series," Pierce said. "It’s going to be difficult. The playoffs are hard to win and we’ve got to figure out a way to grind through."

TRENDS:


* Under is 6-0 in the last six meetings.
* Celtics are 1-4 ATS in their last five home games.
* Knicks are 7-0 ATS in their last seven road games vs. a team with a home winning percentage greater than .600.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. The Knicks are 17-1 when Felton and Prigioni form the starting backcourt.

2. Knicks F J.R. Smith has been suspended for Game 4 after throwing an elbow at Jason Terry in Game 3.

3. New York was swept in four games by Boston in 2010-11 - Anthony's first season with the team.


Miami Heat at Milwaukee Bucks (+8.5, 195)


Heat lead best-of-seven series 3-0.

The Miami Heat have let the Milwaukee Bucks hang around until late in the third quarter in each of the last two games before putting the pedal down and sprinting to the finish. The Bucks will need to withstand that closing kick if they hope to extend the series beyond Game 4 on Sunday. The Heat are 13 wins away from  back-to-back championships and have put up three convincing wins in the first three games against Milwaukee.

LeBron James has not approached the numbers he put up in Game 1 in either of the last two contests but has picked his spots to impact each game. He stayed on the floor with the second unit in the beginning of the fourth quarter of Game 2 to spark the decisive run and knocked down the 3-pointer late in the third quarter that got things rolling in Game 3. The Bucks have had some success with Ersan Ilyasova and Larry Sanders on the inside but guards Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings have not been able to find a rhythm offensively.

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

ABOUT THE HEAT: Miami has looked vulnerable at certain points in each of the first three games before snapping back into focus and running away. James turned in a dominant performance in Game 1 but has let the supporting cast handle most of the heavy lifting in the subsequent two games. That cast will need to expand and put in even more work in Game 4 with Dwyane Wade sitting out. The All-Star guard missed time at the end of the regular season with a bruised knee and was limited in practice by the injury on Saturday.

ABOUT THE BUCKS: Jennings said that Milwaukee would win the series in six games before the start of the playoffs. That optimistic prediction is now an impossibility, and free-agent-to-be Jennings could be down to his final game in a Bucks uniform. Jennings scored 26 points in Game 1 but has gone 8-for-30 from the floor in the last two contests, including 1-for-14 from 3-point range. Ilyasova and Sanders have been the most effective offensive performers in the last two games but have not been able to take control of the game in the fourth quarter while Miami has been pulling away. Ilyasova and Sanders averaged a combined 16.6 rebounds in the regular season but have not been able to help the Bucks gain an advantage on the glass in the series.

TRENDS:


* Heat are 5-1 ATS in their last six games overall.
* Under is 4-0-2 in Bucks’ last six vs. a team with a winning record.
* Heat are 13-3 ATS in their last 16 games vs. a team with a losing  record.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Miami F Chris Andersen has collected 31 points on 13-of-15 shooting in the first three games.

2. Allen broke Reggie Miller’s record for career playoff 3-pointers in Game 3. He has 322 after knocking down five on Thursday.

3. Bucks F Mike Dunleavy has averaged 13.5 points off the bench in the last two games.

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