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Lakers, Celtics boast best NBA records; how far for 3 points?

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The Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers losing on the same day] Check last Sunday's box scores, because they confirm that this ``Ripleyan'' feat actually happened, with Philadelphia defeating Boston 95-94 and Houston downing the Lakers 109-103. The setbacks were witnessed by a national TV audience, and may have convinced some observers that it's still too early to be penciling the Celtics and Lakers into their third straight National Basketball Association championship series.

There's no question, however, that Boston and L.A. have been the dominant teams throughout the regular season, which ends this weekend. The Celtics, 65-15 with two games left, will finish with one of the best winning percentages (somewhere around .800) in league history. The defending champion Lakers, meanwhile, could equal or improve on last year's .756 mark, depending on the outcome of their last three games.

After these ``superteams,'' only seven other franchises are assured of finishing above .500. They are, in descending order by record, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Houston, Atlanta, Denver, Detroit, and Dallas.

At this point, Boston appears to be the team to beat, with possibly the best collection of talent in Celtics history. That's saying an awful lot, yet Bill Walton and Jerry Sichting have been been tremendous acquisitions, and Larry Bird has generally regained the spectacular form some sensed slipping away late last spring.

Bird, however, doesn't always come through. Last Sunday, for example, the league's leading free-throw shooter missed two foul shots that would have put Boston up 96-92 with seven seconds left. Instead, Philadelphia won when Julius Erving gained possession after a jump ball and threw in an desperation buzzer-beater from 3-point land.

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