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NBA - Conference semi-finals: Preview

The NBA Play-Offs have reached the Conference Semi-Finals stage, with the top eight seeds having all made it safely past the first round.

There are some fascinating match-ups in the next round, as the teams left battle it out in the best-of-seven format to make the Conference finals.

Embiid absence aids Heat's hopes

The most fascinating clash of the semi-finals sees Eastern Conference winners the Miami Heat face the Philadelphia 76ers, although the potential absence of Joel Embiid for the Sixers could prove crucial.

Only two games separated the teams in their regular season records, while both sides won two of their four meetings.

Some feared the 76ers might slip up against the Toronto Raptors in round one, but they sealed their place in the semi-finals with an emphatic 132-97 success to take the series 4-2.

Embiid was once again the star of the show, scoring 30+ points in three of the six matches with, Toronto while James Harden continues to chip in with valuable contributions.

Although the Heat made light work of Atlanta, with a 4-1 series success, Erik Spoelstra's team didn’t score more than 115 points in any of the five games and the concern for Heat fans is that they could be out-scored by Philly.

Jimmy Butler averaged 30.5 points against the Hawks and he will need to deliver again if Miami are going to reach the Eastern Conference Finals.

With the news of an eye injury to Embiid making an impact, Miami are 4/17 to win the series, with the 76ers 13/4.

Giannis experience could be key for the Bucks

The other Eastern Conference semi-final sees the Milwaukee Bucks face the Boston Celtics, who are looking to reach the NBA Finals for the first time in 12 years.

Both teams met four times in the regular season, winning two games each, but notably it was the Bucks that won the last two meetings.

Giannis Antetokounmpo often proves the difference in these play-off matches and the ‘Greek Freak’ averaged 28.6 in the round-one series against Chicago.

The Celtics won seven of their last 10 games of the regular season to make the play-offs in strong form, before thumping Brooklyn 4-0 in round one. Jason Tatum had 29.5 points per game to his name against the Nets.

Milwaukee are 17/10 to win the first game - which takes place in Boston on Sunday - while the Celtics can be backed at 1/2.

The Bucks, meanwhile, are 17/10 to win the series, with Boston 1/2 to progress to the Conference Finals.

Suns have the edge over Mavericks

The Phoenix Suns, the Western Conference winners, have made it through round one, but now face a much tougher test against the Dallas Mavericks.

Their series with New Orleans Pelicans was closer than many expected, with the Suns eventually winning 4-2 – the same series scoreline by which Dallas beat Utah Jazz.

At the age of 36, veteran Chris Paul has led by example so far in the play-offs and averaged 11.3 assists in the Pelicans series.

Phoenix have also had the edge over their opponents though in the regular season, winning all three of their meetings, and the Suns are 4/11 to win the best-of-seven series.

If Dallas are going to cause an upset Slovenian ace Luka Doncic will have to be on top form, with the Mavs 9/4 to win the series.

Morant could lead Memphis to glory

The teams seeded second and third in the Western Conference meet in the semi-finals, as Memphis Grizzlies face 2018 champions Golden State Warriors.

A comfortable 4-1 success over the Denver Nuggets showed not only the quality that the Warriors possess, but also that Steph Curry is back to full fitness.

The two-time NBA MVP has recovered from a knee injury that kept him out of the closing weeks of the regular season, but his return is a significant factor in why the Dubs are now 6/4 to win the Western Conference title.

However, he and the Warriors face their biggest test of the campaign, against a Memphis team who finished the season strongly and have arguably the most in-form Point Guard in the league.

Ja Morant was outstanding in their first-round series victory over Minnesota and the 22-year-old is 12/1 to be named as the Finals MVP.

Memphis are 2/1 to win the series - which begins with the opener at the FedEx Forum in Tennessee - while Golden State can be backed at 5/12.

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