The Boston Celtics pummelled the Philadelphia 76ers when they last met during the NBA’s regular season. Now they’ll bid to land a knockout blow when they meet tonight, in the first of the Eastern Conference semi-finals.
In their first two meetings earlier this year, the Sixers delivered emphatic victories by an average of 22.5 points. Last month however, as Boston swept past their rivals to the Atlantic Division crown, it was the Celtics who came up trumps with a 103-79 victory.
Of course, that’s old news in Philadelphia, forgotten amid the euphoria of dumping the top-seeded Chicago Bulls out of the play-offs. But while beating a team with more casualties than an episode of ER is one thing, toppling Boston is another.
The Celtics are not without their own concerns, with Paul Pierce and Ray Allen being patched up to carry on. But they’re 1.48 favourites to win Game 1 in regulation and a tempting 1.91 on a handicap of -5.5 points. Boston’s also at a hefty 10.50 to sweep the series but priced at 5.50 for a more realistic 4-2 victory.
The first round comes to a close in Los Angeles when the Lakers and Denver Nuggets clash in a winner-takes-all Game 7 at the Staples Center.
Kobe Bryant called out his team-mates for lacking heart following Denver’s 11-86 victory on Thursday but the spotlight is as much on coach Mike Brown to make the adjustments necessary to decelerate the Nuggets.
He’ll have Metta World Peace back from suspension to help their cause today with the Lakers on a handicap of -6 at 1.91. But Denver have been very impressive in rallying back from a 3-1 series deficit, and they’re a generous 3.26 to win in overtime or less.
The British domestic season ends on Saturday with the BBL play-off final between Newcastle Eagles and Leicester Riders. Newcastle, winners of all three domestic prizes, are looking for a clean sweep, but are 2.00 underdogs in this one. It’s worth a punt on a double for the Eagles to soar and keep the total points under 165.5.
Bet of the Day: Take Denver to upset the Lakers at 3.26.