May 28, 2002 9:16 AM

The NBA Conference Finals have unfolded with a pair of amazing comebacks spaced within just 24 hours.

Saturday’s record setting comeback by Boston may have been the game that elevates the Celtics to legitimate contenders for several more years. Overcoming a 21-point deficit at the start of the fourth quarter Boston defeated New Jersey to take a 2-1 lead over the Nets.

It would be hard to imagine New Jersey being able to recover from a 3-1 deficit after having its spirit broken in Game 3 and failing to rebound with a win in Game 4. We might be in store for a Game 7 showdown if New Jersey recaptures the home court advantage.

The betting strategy for the remainder of the series might really be quite simple. Should New Jersey go down 3-1 it is reasonable to expect that Boston would wrap up the series in Game 5. Boston would likely be an underdog at New Jersey and the points are worth taking.

Should New Jersey win to force a Game 6 in Boston, the play would again be on the Celtics to finish their business and not be subjected to a deciding seventh game and a possible three-game losing streak.

If New Jersey can even the series at 2-2, the underdog becomes an attractive play in all remaining games. The Nets would have recovered from their Game 3 disaster and the series again becomes competitive. Boston would be the play as an underdog in Game 5 in New Jersey.

The Nets would be the play in Game 6 at Boston as an underdog to either even the series or wrap it up. Boston would be the play as an underdog in Game 7 that might well go down to the wire.

HERO ”” Horry ”˜robbed’ Kings.

Things are every bit as surprising in the West where Sacramento was in excellent position to have three chances to eliminate two-time defending champion Los Angeles.

After routing the Lakers in Game 3 to go up 2-1, the Kings had total control of Game 4 on Sunday, building up a 24-point second quarter lead. The Lakers were able to whittle the lead down in the second half. That amazing ending, during which Sacramento’s Vlade Divac tipped a missed Lakers attempt to the top of the key as time wound down, totally changed this series.

Robert Horry’s open, though desperation, three pointer game the Lakers a one point lead and tied the series at 2-2. The Lakers, small underdogs in Game 5 on Tuesday in Sacramento, are primed for their best effort after three straight sub-par performances.

The Lakers are worth playing as an underdog, and playing against as a favorite. Thus the Lakers are the play in Game 5, with the Kings getting the nod in Game 6. Should the series go seven, it will be very interesting to see what the line would be. Sacramento has been favored in all three home games but would the linesmaker make the Kings a favorite in a possible seventh and deciding game?

If we are fortunate, we may get that answer after the weekend.