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Saturday NBA Action Saturday NBA Playoffs Preview

BOSTON CELTICS (41-40) at NEW YORK KNICKS (54-28) Line & Total: New York -6.5 & 191

The NBA playoffs tip off Saturday afternoon with the Celtics visiting a Knicks team that is now the higher-seeded team in this rivalry.

New York is no stranger to playing Boston in the first round of the NBA playoffs. Two years ago, the Celtics embarrassed the Knicks with a first round sweep, but this year things should be a lot different. New York has won three straight games in this season series, including two straight blowouts last month, 100-85 in Boston on March 26 and a 108-89 home win on March 31. PF Kevin Garnett wasn't playing in these past two lopsided outcomes, and his ankle is still a question mark for Boston. SF Paul Pierce has also missed time in April with an ankle injury, but he is probable to suit up on Saturday. The Knicks will still be without PF Amar'e Stoudemire (knee), but SF Carmelo Anthony (shoulder), C Tyson Chandler (neck) and PF Kenyon Martin (ankle) are all expected to return to the court on Saturday. This will help New York handle both Garnett and PF Jeff Green inside. The Knicks have been on fire going into the playoffs with a 16-2 SU record (15-3 ATS) and 10 straight home wins (9-1 ATS) to improve their record at Madison Square Garden to 31-10 SU (25-16 ATS) this season. Boston is just 5-11 SU (6-10 ATS) in its past 16 games overall, and 14-27 SU (15-24-2 ATS) on the road this season.

The Celtics' last regular-season home game was canceled after the tragedy that occurred at the Boston Marathon on Sunday, but they'll be well rested, having played just one game in six days leading up to the postseason. Boston is going to come out with a ton of energy and this playoff-tested team is going to compete every second they are on the floor. SF Paul Pierce (18.6 PPG, 6.3 RPG) is coming into the game after a regular season in which he averaged 21.3 PPG, 7.5 RPG and 4.8 APG in four games against New York. His matchup with Carmelo Anthony will be the most important in the series. PF Kevin Garnett (14.8 PPG, 7.8 RPG), who missed 10 of the last 13 games for Boston, played against Orlando on Saturday and put up 14 points and nine rebounds in just 19 minutes of play. Garnett's ankle didn't look to be bothering him as he finished the game 7-for-8 from the field. He averaged a double-double versus the Knicks this season with 13.5 PPG and 11.0 RPG in two meetings. Outside of Pierce and Garnett, the Celtics will need their role players to step it up if they are going to make noise in this years playoffs. SG Jason Terry (10.1 PPG on 43% FG) has struggled all season, and is questionable with a knee injury, but the Celtics need a big series from him. Terry was awful in the season series with 5.5 PPG on 32% FG, but he will be playing in his ninth straight postseason where he's averaged 16.9 PPG (39.4% threes) and 3.5 APG in 87 playoff games. PF Jeff Green (12.8 PPG, 3.9 RPG) will also need to make an impact offensively as well. He's averaged 17.0 PPG and 6.7 RPG in his past three games, and has been tremendous against New York this season with 17.8 PPG (56% FG) and 6.5 RPG in the four meetings.

The Knicks had a very successful regular season, winning 54 games on their way to securing the Atlantic Division title and the Eastern Conference's No. 2 seed. SF Carmelo Anthony (28.7 PPG, 6.9 RPG) led the NBA in scoring thanks to 15 straight 20-point games to end the season. He averaged a ridiculous 36.9 PPG (54% FG) and 9.9 RPG in April, and although he shot poorly versus Boston this season (35% FG), he still managed 25.3 PPG and 7.5 RPG in the four meetings. SG J.R. Smith (18.1 PPG, 5.3 RPG) is likely to win the NBA's sixth man of the year award after scoring 14+ points in each of his final 19 games. Smith averaged 22.0 PPG on 48% FG (40% threes) in April, and poured in 20.0 PPG and 7.0 RPG in the four contests against Boston. C Tyson Chandler (10.4 PPG, 10.7 RPG) is coming back from a bulging disc in his neck, and he will really need to play some great defense on Garnett if the Knicks are going to advance in this series. The 7-footer has 9.0 PPG and a hefty 12.5 RPG in two games versus the Celtics this season. PG Raymond Felton (13.9 PPG, 5.5 APG) will have to be better against the Boston defense, as he averaged a mere 3.5 APG in 31.5 MPG against the C's this season to go along with 12.0 PPG on 56% shooting against them.

GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS (47-35) at DENVER NUGGETS (57-25) Line & Total: Denver -8 & 210.5

After making the postseason for the first time in six years, sixth-seeded Golden State will travel to third-seeded Denver for Game 1 of their first-round playoff series on Saturday afternoon.

Both teams finished the regular season strong, as the Warriors won 10 of their final 15 games (SU and ATS) while the Nuggets closed the season with eight wins in their final nine contests (5-4 ATS). Although Denver won three of the four meetings (SU and ATS) between these teams this season, the clubs have met just once since November, a 116-105 Nuggets home win on Jan. 13. Denver finished the season a remarkable 38-3 SU (28-13 ATS) at Pepsi Center, outscoring opponents by 10.7 PPG on their home court. Golden State was only 19-22 SU (19-21-1 ATS) on the road this season, but finished with a 4-2 ATS mark in its final six away games. Both clubs are relatively healthy for this game, but Denver will be without SF Danilo Gallinari (torn ACL) for the entire playoffs, and PF Kenneth Faried (ankle) is listed as questionable for Saturday's series opener.

Golden State had little trouble putting up points this season with 101.2 PPG (7th in NBA) on 45.8% FG (11th in league) and an NBA-best 40.3% three-point clip. Despite holding teams to 43.9% FG (4th in NBA) and 34.7% threes (7th in league), the Warriors still allowed 100.3 PPG overall (19th in NBA) and 107.5 PPG in the season series with Denver. Golden State committed the third-most turnovers in the league (14.8 TOPG), but was strong on the glass with a +2.3 RPG margin (8th in NBA). PF David Lee (18.5 PPG, 11.2 RPG) was the biggest reason his team fared so well on the boards, leading the NBA with 56 double-doubles, eight more than any other player. Lee crushed Denver this season with 23.3 PPG (56% FG), 10.3 RPG, 5.0 APG and 2.3 steals per game. PG Stephen Curry (22.9 PPG, 6.9 APG) not only set an NBA record for most three-pointers made in a season (272), but actually shot better from three-point range (45.3%) than from inside the arc (44.9%) this season. He finished the regular season very strong with 32.3 PPG on 50% FG and 51% threes (20-for-39) in his final three contests. Curry also scored 18.5 PPG (47% FG, 16-of-24 threes) with 5.8 APG versus the Nuggets this season. SG Klay Thompson (16.6 PPG, 3.7 RPG) also had a huge finish to the regular season with three straight 20-point efforts, averaging 24.0 PPG on 48% shooting over that span. Thompson averaged 18.3 PPG and 5.3 RPG in the season series with Denver. PG Jarrett Jack (12.9 PPG, 5.5 APG) shot just 42% in the season series with the Nuggets, but still contributed 13.3 PPG and 5.5 APG in the four games. And in his final two games of the regular season, Jack totaled 20 points (9-of-18 FG) with 17 assists and just three turnovers. PF Carl Landry (10.8 PPG, 6.0 RPG) closed out the regular season with four straight double-figure scoring efforts, averaging 12.0 PPG and 6.3 RPG during this stretch. Landry was solid versus Denver this season too, with 13.0 PPG (53% FG) and 6.5 RPG.

The Nuggets led the NBA in scoring with 106.1 PPG, as they attempted the second-most field goals in the league (85.2 FGA per game). But they also shot a stellar 47.8% FG (5th in NBA), despite a subpar 34.3% clip on three-pointers (25th in league). The fast-paced offense predictably caused a lot of turnovers (14.7 TOPG, 4th-most in NBA) and led to 101.1 PPG allowed (8th-worst in league) despite surrendering just 44.4% FG (11th-best in NBA) and 36.3% threes (20th-best in league). However, this is an excellent rebounding team, whose +3.4 RPG margin ranked fourth in the NBA. PG Ty Lawson (16.7 PPG, 6.9 APG) finally appears to be 100 percent recovered from a heel injury that kept him out of action for the first four games of April. In four games since returning to the lineup, Lawson has 16.3 PPG on 59% FG with 27 assists and just five turnovers (5.4 Ast/TO ratio). He averaged 16.0 PPG, 8.3 APG and 2.3 SPG in the season series with Golden State. Swingman Wilson Chandler (13.0 PPG, 5.1 RPG) has really stepped up his offense with Gallinari out for the season, pouring in 20.0 PPG on 51% FG (43% threes) with 6.0 RPG in the past five games. Chandler was strong in his one meeting with the Warriors this season, scoring 14 points with six boards and three steals. SG Andre Iguodala (13.0 PPG, 5.4 APG, 5.3 RPG) has contributed in all facets in the past five games with 18.2 PPG (55% FG, 44% threes), 7.6 RPG and 7.4 APG. He had a huge series versus Golden State this season too with 20.0 PPG, 6.3 RPG and 5.0 APG in the four meetings. SF Corey Brewer (12.1 PPG) has been horrible in the past three games with 5.3 PPG on 3-of-15 shooting, and although he scored 11.3 PPG against the Warriors, he made just 3-of-16 threes against them. PF Kenneth Faried (11.5 PPG, 9.2 RPG) hasn't played a full game since April 12 when he recorded a double-double (11 pts, 10 reb) in Dallas. The team is hoping his ankle heals enough for Saturday, as Faried was a beast in the paint with 11.5 PPG, 11.3 RPG and 2.3 BPG against the Warriors this season. PG Andre Miller (9.6 PPG, 5.9 APG) has been in a major shooting slump over the past four games, scoring just 6.3 PPG on 6-of-30 shooting. But he played very well versus Golden State this season with 8.3 PPG on 46% FG with 25 assists and five turnovers in the four meetings.

CHICAGO BULLS (45-37) at BROOKLYN NETS (49-33) Line & Total: Brooklyn -4.5 & 182.5

The Nets open their 2013 playoffs by hosting the Bulls in their first-ever postseason game played in Brooklyn on Saturday night.

Chicago has made a lot out of a season where many weren't expecting much with the absence of star PG Derrick Rose. The Bulls played their way to the Eastern Conference's five-seed where they will collide with a Nets team that they beat three times (3-1 SU and ATS) in the regular season. In the most recent meeting on April 4, Chicago won 92-90 at Brooklyn despite missing C Joakim Noah. PF Carlos Boozer dominated that game with 29 points and 18 rebounds, and will not have to worry about defense as much with Noah back on the court Saturday. But the Nets have been tough at home all season (26-15 SU, 16-23-2 ATS), and closed out the regular season with 11 wins in their final 16 games (9-7 ATS). The Bulls have been a strong road wager all season at 23-17-1 ATS (58%) but were just 3-8 ATS in their final 11 games.

The Bulls won 45 games in a season in which they played every game without Derrick Rose, plus 16 games without C Joakim Noah, who has been dealing with plantar fasciitis. He returned for the Bulls final two games but played just 14.0 MPG in those contests and totaled six points, six rebounds and four fouls. The Bulls' star center averaged 11.9 PPG, 11.1 RPG and 2.1 BPG over 36.8 MPG this season and he will need to play at a high level in big minutes if the Bulls are going to pull off the first-round upset. He averaged 16.5 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 5.0 APG and 3.0 BPG in two meetings with Brooklyn this season. SF Luol Deng, who averaged 16.5 PPG and 6.3 RPG this season, will need to play better against the Nets than he did in the regular season where he averaged just 15.3 PPG on 39% FG over the course of four games. However, PF Carlos Boozer averaged 21.3 PPG and 10.7 RPG in the three games he played against the Nets this season. PG Nate Robinson is going to be an X-factor in this series for the Bulls. The point guard played excellent all year for Chicago (13.1 PPG, 4.4 APG) and in four games against the Nets averaged 10.5 PPG and 6.3 APG. The Bulls will need help from everywhere in their lineup to get by the Nets without Rose.

Brooklyn finished the year very strong, going 35-19 SU (65%) after P.J Carlesimo took over as head coach. C Brook Lopez had a phenomenal season for the Nets, averaging 19.4 PPG, 6.9 RPG and 2.1 BPG. Lopez was even more dominant against the Bulls this season, averaging 22.0 PPG on 53% FG in the four games against Chicago. PF Reggie Evans (11.1 RPG) is averaging a hefty 13.3 RPG over the past four contests, and he has been everything the Nets have needed next to a poor rebounding center in Lopez. PG Deron Williams has also been red-hot, averaging 25.0 PPG (49% FG) and 9.8 APG in his past four games. With Williams playing like the best point guard in the league since the All-Star break, the Nets will now need SG Joe Johnson to regain his form. The Nets made a large investment in trading for Johnson in the offseason and the former All-Star has disappointed somewhat, averaging just 16.3 PPG on 42% FG this season. Johnson scored just 13.0 PPG on 43% FG versus Chicago this season, but he did, however, end the season with 16.5 PPG on 45% FG (43% threes) in his final four games, scoring at least 20 points in two of those contests. Brooklyn will need Johnson to step up his scoring in the playoffs where he's averaged 18.0 PPG over the past five playoff seasons with Atlanta.

MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES (56-26) at LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS (56-26) Line & Total: Los Angeles -5 & 180

A pair of teams with identical records begin what they hope are long postseason journeys on Saturday night when the Grizzlies visit the Clippers.

Memphis enters the playoffs on quite a roll, going 9-2 SU (7-3-1 ATS) in its final 11 contests, where it held all 11 opponents under 100 points, giving up a mere 84.5 PPG on 40.7% FG and 29.7% threes. Los Angeles has also been playing great defensive basketball by limiting its opponents to 93.7 PPG on 42.4% FG and 33.6% threes during a current streak of seven straight victories (4-2-1 ATS). These teams will be meeting for the second time in eight days on Saturday, as the Clippers won 91-87 in Memphis on April 13, giving them the season series win (3-1 SU and ATS). Although the Grizzlies tied the Clippers for the third-best road record in the NBA at 24-17 SU, Memphis' 24-16-1 ATS away mark (60%) ranked second in the league. However, L.A. boasted the NBA's fifth-best home record (32-9 SU, 78%) and tied for the fifth-best home wager at 24-16-1 ATS (60%) at Staples Center.

Memphis is not a potent offensive team by any stretch, averaging a Western Conference-low 93.4 PPG on poor shooting percentages of 44.4% FG (10th-worst in NBA) and 34.5% threes (7th-worst in league). However, the Grizzlies don't hurt themselves with turnovers (13.2 TOPG, 4th-best in NBA) and swipe the fourth-most steals in the league at 8.6 SPG. They also rank second in the NBA in rebounding margin (+3.6 RPG), which helps explain how they lead the NBA in scoring defense (89.3 PPG allowed) and hold opponents to 43.5% FG (3rd in league) and 33.8% threes (2nd in NBA). PF Zach Randolph (15.4 PPG, 11.2 RPG) did not have a good month of April with just 14.2 PPG on 42% FG, but he was a beast in the regular-season finale against Utah with 25 points and 19 rebounds. He's also tallied a double-double in the season series with L.A., compiling 14.8 PPG and 12.0 RPG in the four games. PG Mike Conley (14.6 PPG, 6.1 APG) is in a shooting funk in his past four games with just 11.0 PPG on 36% FG (2-of-10 threes), but he has run this offense beautifully with 26 assists and just six turnovers in the past five contests. Like most NBA players guarded by Clippers star Chris Paul, Conley has struggled versus Los Angeles this season, scoring just 10.3 PPG on 30% FG, but he's still dished out a strong 5.8 APG. C Marc Gasol (14.1 PPG, 7.8 RPG) had a monster game last Saturday against the Clippers with 18 points, 15 boards and seven assists, increasing his averages in this season series to 16.8 PPG, 9.0 RPG and 4.0 APG. He didn't do much in the final two games of the season though, scoring a total of 10 points in a combined 51 minutes. SG Tony Allen (8.9 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 1.5 SPG) remains one of the better defenders in the NBA and played pretty well in Wednesday's victory too with eight points, seven rebounds and four assists in just 20 minutes.

The Clippers don't have a major weakness, as they possess an offense that has scored 101.1 PPG this season (9th in NBA) on 47.8% FG (4th in league), and a respectable 35.8% threes (16th in NBA). Since scoring just 85 points in a home loss to Memphis on March 13, this team has been putting up serious points on its home floor with 105.0 PPG on 51% FG (35% threes) during a 7-1 SU home stretch at Staples Center. This club usually gets the job done defensively as well, surrendering just 94.6 PPG (4th in NBA) on 44.3% FG (10th in league), but it does a horrible job of defending long-range shooters, giving up 37.3% threes (5th-worst in NBA). The Clips produce a league-leading 9.6 steals per game, and usually have the advantage in the paint with a +2.5 RPG margin (6th in NBA), and 5.6 blocks per contest (7th in league). PG Chris Paul (16.9 PPG) ranks second in the NBA in assists (9.7 APG) and leads the league in steals (2.41 SPG). He has been playing exceptionally well during the seven-game win streak with 17.3 PPG (49% FG), 10.9 APG, 2.6 SPG and five double-doubles. Paul has also fared well against Memphis this season with 16.3 PPG (47% FG) and 8.7 APG. PF Blake Griffin (18.0 PPG, 8.3 RPG) hasn't been nearly as effective in the season series with 13.8 PPG (44% FG) and 7.0 RPG in the four meetings, but he played very well in last year's playoffs with 19.1 PPG (50% FG) and 6.9 RPG in the 11 postseason games. SG Jamal Crawford (16.5 PPG) has an underwhelming 14.0 PPG (40% FG) against the Grizzlies this season, but he appeared to bust out of a shooting slump (14-of-43 FG, 33%) by hitting 6-of-8 threes on Wednesday and finishing with 24 points. C DeAndre Jordan (8.8 PPG, 7.2 RPG) finished the regular season on a high note too with 11.3 PPG, 10.3 RPG and 2.7 BPG in the final three contests, and was also solid in the season series with Memphis, averaging 9.5 PPG on 66% FG with 7.0 RPG. This included 16 points, 12 boards and three blocks in Saturday's 91-87 win at Memphis.

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