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NBA Playoffs 2024: Lakers stay alive, while Celtics, Magic and Thunder all win easily

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LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers are still alive. And the Orlando Magic, Oklahoma City Thunder and Boston Celtics were all rolling.

Close games are hard to find in these NBA playoffs. Entering Sunday, 19 of the first 26 games of the first round were all decided by at least 10 points.

All four games on Saturday were double-digit decisions: Orlando beat Cleveland by 23, Oklahoma City beat New Orleans by 21, Boston beat Miami by 20 and the Lakers beat Denver in the “close” game of the day by 11 to avoid a sweep.

Another quadrupleheader awaits Sunday: New York is at Philadelphia (Knicks lead 2-1), the Los Angeles Clippers are at Dallas (Mavericks lead 2-1), Milwaukee is at Indiana (Pacers lead 2-1) and Minnesota — up 3-0 in that series — looks to be the first team to reach the second round when it visits Phoenix.

NATIONAL TV SCHEDULE

Sunday

1 p.m. — New York at Philadelphia, ABC

3:30 p.m. — L.A. Clippers at Dallas, ABC

7 p.m. — Milwaukee at Indiana, TNT

9:30 p.m. — Minnesota at Phoenix, TNT

Monday

7:30 p.m. — Boston at Miami, TNT

8:30 p.m. — Oklahoma City at New Orleans, NBA TV

10 p.m. — L.A. Lakers at Denver, TNT

Tuesday

6:30 or 8 p.m. — Orlando at Cleveland, NBA TV

7 p.m. — Philadelphia at New York, TNT

9 or 9:30 p.m. — Indiana at Milwaukee, NBA TV or TNT

9:30 p.m. — Phoenix at Minnesota, TNT (if necessary)

(If Minnesota wins Sunday, the Magic-Cavaliers game is 8 p.m. and the Pacers-Bucks game is 9:30 p.m. on TNT. If Phoenix wins Sunday, Magic-Cavaliers is 6:30 p.m. and Pacers-Bucks is 9 p.m. on NBA TV.)

BETTING GUIDE

Boston has home-court advantage throughout the NBA playoffs and currently is the favorite to win the championship, according to BetMGM Sportsbook.

The Celtics are listed at +130, ahead of defending champion Denver (+240). Next up: Oklahoma City (+1000), Minnesota (+1100), Dallas (+1300), New York (+1600), Philadelphia (+3000), the Los Angeles Clippers (+5000) and Indiana (+5000).

After that, it’s Milwaukee (+6000), Cleveland (+6600), the Los Angeles Lakers (+20000), Orlando (+20000), Phoenix (+25000), Miami (+50000) and New Orleans (+75000).

AWARD SEASON

Coach of the Year gets announced on Sunday, with Oklahoma City’s Mark Daigneault, Minnesota’s Chris Finch and Orlando’s Jamahl Mosley the three finalists.

Last week, Philadelphia’s Tyrese Maxey won Most Improved Player over Chicago’s Coby White, Minnesota’s Naz Reid won Sixth Man of the Year in a very close vote over Sacramento’s Malik Monk and Golden State’s Stephen Curry won Clutch Player of the Year over Chicago’s DeMar DeRozan.

The schedule for announcing the remaining individual awards has yet to be revealed. There’s Rookie of the Year (San Antonio’s Victor Wembanyama, Oklahoma City’s Chet Holmgren or Charlotte’s Brandon Miller), Defensive Player of the Year (Wembanyama, Minnesota’s Rudy Gobert or Miami’s Bam Adebayo) and Most Valuable Player (Denver’s Nikola Jokic, Dallas’ Luka Doncic or Oklahoma City’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander).

WHAT TO KNOW

— Jimmy Butler is anxious.

— Damian Lillard is hurting.

— Preview for Sunday’s games: Knicks-76ers, Clippers-Mavericks, Bucks-Pacers, Timberwolves-Suns.

STAT OF THE DAY

Boston, Oklahoma City and Orlando all have two wins by at least 20 points so far in Round 1. No team has had three wins by 20 or more in the opening round since Toronto did that to Brooklyn in 2020.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“We’ve given ourselves another life. We’ve given ourselves another lifeline. It’s a one-game series for us. Monday’s game is the most important game of the season for us and we understand that.” — the Lakers’ LeBron James, after Saturday’s win over Denver to cut the deficit in that series to 3-1.

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AP NBA: https://apnews.com/nba

By The Associated Press

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