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THE LA LAKERS will meet the Oklahoma City Thunder in the second round of the NBA playoffs after ousting the Denver Nuggets in Game 7 on Saturday.
Pau Gasol had 23 points, 17 rebounds and six assists in the 96-87 victory while Metta World Peace added 15 points on his return from a seven-game suspension.
The Lakers almost blew a 16-point lead in the second half to lead by just a point at the last break and were in danger of becoming just the ninth team in NBA history to blow a 3-1 series lead.
Ty Lawson and Al Harrington each had 24 points for the Nuggets who paid dearly for their 19 turnovers and wayward shooting in the fourth quarter.
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The Boston Celtics started their Eastern Conference semi-final with the Philadelphia 76ers in fine form with a 92-91 win in the opener at TD Garden.
Kevin Garnett had 29 points and 11 rebounds for the Celtics who went on a rampage with 23 of the next 30 points after the Sixers had led 77-67 with 11 minutes to play.
Rajon Rondo, who had 17 assists, 13 points and 12 rebounds for his eighth career playoff triple-double, scored a jumper to cut the lead and another with less than four minutes left to put Boston into an 81-80 lead.
The Sixers had advanced to the second round of the play-offs for the first time since 2003 after beating top seed Chicago, but could not hang on late as Andre Iguodala led the side with 19 points.
Game 2 is in Boston on Monday while the Lakers face the second-seeded Thunder in Game 1 on Monday.