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BOSTON CELTICS (34-27) at OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER (46-16) Line & Total: Oklahoma City -10.5 & 200.5
The Celtics are trying to stay perfect this month when they visit the high-powered Thunder on Sunday afternoon.
Boston has not lost since Feb. 24, ripping off five straight wins (SU and ATS), with three of those coming on the road in tough venues (Utah, Philadelphia and Indiana). Oklahoma City is also red-hot, with seven wins in its past eight contests (6-2 ATS), including four straight victories. The Thunder are also 27-4 SU (22-9 ATS) at home this season, outscoring these visitors by 14.3 PPG. Although Boston won the first matchup of this season series on Nov. 23 by a score of 108-100, Oklahoma City won the three previous meetings (SU and ATS) by 5, 9 and 15 points when these teams last met as Chesapeake Energy Arena on Feb. 22, 2012.
A big reason Boston was able to beat Oklahoma City in November was the heroics of PG Rajon Rondo who had 16 assists and just two turnovers that game. But although Rondo is now out for the season with a torn ACL, the team hasn't skipped a beat, going 14-4 (SU and ATS) since Jan. 27, which was the first game the Celtics played after Rondo suffered his injury. Boston's offense hasn't always been great this season (96.3 PPG on 46% FG and 35% threes), but it is certainly clicking during the five-game win streak with 100.6 PPG on 48% FG and 42% threes. SF Paul Pierce (18.6 PPG, 6.5 RPG) has been the catalyst for the win surge with 22.0 PPG (51% FG, 46% threes), 8.2 RPG and 6.0 APG in the five games. PF Kevin Garnett (15.1 PPG, 7.8 RPG) has also played well with 14.6 PPG (48% FG) and 9.4 RPG during the five victories. The duo combined for 44 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists in Friday's 107-102 overtime win over Atlanta. SG Jason Terry (10.4 PPG) was also a key player in that victory with 19 points (3-of-4 threes), five assists and four rebounds. PF Jeff Green (11.1 PPG, 3.5 RPG) also contributed mightily off the bench against Atlanta with 12 points, three assists and a game-high +10 rating. All four of these players also performed at a high level in the Nov. 23 win versus the Thunder. Pierce had a team-high 27 points, Garnett went for 18 points, nine rebounds and a game-high +18 rating, while Terry pumped in 16 points (6-of-8 FG, 4-of-6 threes) and Green had 17 points on 6-of-11 shooting.
Oklahoma City is an outstanding offensive team with 107.0 PPG on 48.4% FG and 39.2% threes. This club has scored at least 100 points in each of its past 12 home games, averaging a whopping 113.8 PPG on 51% FG and 45% threes. SF Kevin Durant (28.5 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 4.7 APG) needed just 24 minutes in Friday's game to light up Charlotte for 19 points, seven assists and six rebounds. In his past nine games, he's averaging a well-rounded 24.3 PPG, 10.2 RPG and 6.6 APG, a stretch that includes two triple-doubles. PG Russell Westbrook (23.4 PPG, 7.7 APG, 5.2 RPG) had scored at least 20 points in 10 straight games before tallying just 11 points in 25 minutes against the Bobcats. SG Kevin Martin (14.5 PPG) has been in a shooting funk since March began, scoring just 10.2 PPG on 33% FG in five games. But PF Serge Ibaka (13.5 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 3.0 BPG) has barely missed a shot during a six-game streak of scoring in double-figures, averaging 15.0 PPG on 66% FG and 79% FT while adding 7.1 RPG and 2.9 BPG on the defensive end. Ibaka tallied 17 points and 13 boards (4 offensive) in the Nov. 23 loss in Boston, while Durant had 29 points (but only three rebounds) and Westbrook had a well-rounded 26 points, eight assists and seven rebounds. Martin was the only key Thunder player that struggled in that defeat at TD Garden, making just 1-of-7 shots and posting a minus-15 rating.
CHICAGO BULLS (35-27) at LOS ANGELES LAKERS (32-31) Line & Total: Los Angeles -5.5 & 195
After getting over the .500 mark with a huge comeback win Friday, the Lakers will try to extend their win streak Sunday afternoon when the Bulls come to town.
Chicago has been scuffling since the start of February, going 7-10 SU (9-8 ATS) and not winning back-to-back games once during this stretch. But the Bulls remain one of the league's best road bets at 18-11-1 ATS (62%) away from home this season. Los Angeles is just 14-18 ATS at home this season, but has scored 111.4 PPG (48% FG, 40% threes) during a five-game home win streak. Despite trailing by 15 points to Toronto in the second quarter on Friday, the Lakers were able to come back and win 118-116 in overtime. Two nights earlier, L.A. erased a 25-point deficit to win at New Orleans. Although the Lakers used to dominate the Bulls, beating them seven straight times from 2007 to November 2010, Chicago has prevailed in each of the past three meetings, including a 95-83 home win on Jan. 21.
Chicago was able to hold off Utah on Friday by an 89-88 score despite not having PF Taj Gibson (knee), SG Richard Hamilton (back) or PG Kirk Hinrich (foot) in that defeat. Hinrich and Hamilton comprised the starting backcourt in the win over L.A. in January, combining for 35 points, 12 assists and eight rebounds, so they will sorely be missed on Sunday. The Bulls also beat the Jazz despite their leading scorer, SF Luol Deng (16.3 PPG) netting just 12 points on 4-of-12 shooting. Deng has made just 38% of his shots (2-for-15 threes) over the past five games, failing to score 20 points in any of those contests. But the other four Bulls starters all played well on Friday. PF Carlos Boozer (15.5 PPG, 9.2 RPG) had 22 points and 10 rebounds, SG Marco Belinelli (10.0 PPG) also scored 22 points with four rebounds, C Joakim Noah (11.9 PPG, 11.4 RPG) finished with nine points and 13 boards (8 offensive) while PF Nate Robinson (11.7 PPG, 4.2 APG) produced 14 points (4-of-13 FG), seven assists and six rebounds. And in the Jan. 21 win over the Lakers, Boozer had 14 points and six boards, Belinelli scored 15 on 5-of-8 FG (3-of-3 threes), Noah chipped in six points, 13 rebounds (5 offensive) and six blocks, while Robinson netted 11 points (3-of-4 threes) in just 13 minutes in that victory.
The L.A. offense has been great throughout the season with 102.7 PPG on 46.0% FG and 36.1% threes. The defense is still lacking though, allowing 101.7 PPG on 45.7% FG and 35.9% threes. SG Kobe Bryant (27.8 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 5.7 APG) has scored at least 29 points in eight straight games, averaging 35.9 PPG on 56% FG and 48% threes during this hot streak. After scoring 42 points with 12 assists in the comeback win over the Hornets on Wednesday, he nearly matched that production with 41 points and 12 assists in Friday's victory versus the Raptors. C Dwight Howard (16.2 PPG, 12.1 RPG, 2.4 BPG) has grabbed at least a dozen rebounds in each of his past nine games, averaging 14.1 RPG during this stretch. He also has 20+ points in each of the past two victories, averaging 22.0 PPG on 58% FG. PG Steve Nash (12.3 PPG, 6.8 APG) has done a nice job with his offense in the past seven games (15.4 PPG on 49% FG and 52% threes), but has just seven assists and six turnovers in his past three games combined. PF Antawn Jamison (9.0 PPG, 4.8 RPG) has also shot extremely well recently with 13.1 PPG on 49% FG (42% threes) while pulling down 6.2 RPG in his past 11 games. Nash was the Lakers' high scorer in the Jan. 21 loss in Chicago with 18 points (7-of-12 FG), but Bryant (16 points on 7-of-22 FG) and Howard (eight points on 2-of-5 FG) did not play well at all. SF Earl Clark (8.0 PPG, 6.2 RPG) provided quality numbers against the Bulls with 12 points and eight rebounds, but finished the game with a minus-12 rating.

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