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Paul Pierce ejected from Game 1

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There was a lot of bad blood between the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat coming into the conference semifinals, and it’s only going to get worse after Paul Pierce was ejected from Game 1 of the series.

The Celtics’ captain was thrown out of the game after being involved in two altercations that resulted in double technical fouls being issued. The first technical came at the 7:58 mark of the fourth quarter. Pierce got James Jones into the air with a pump-fake, and Jones wrapped up Pierce around the neck/shoulder area in order to prevent him from getting a possible And-1 opportunity. Pierce took exception to Jones’ foul, and got right up in Jones’ face, talking trash while performing what the broadcast crew described as a “face-rub.”

Less than a minute of game time later, Dwyane Wade was issued a personal foul for running through a screen set by Pierce. Pierce had what were apparently some choice words for Wade after the whistle was blown, and referee Ed Malloy issued another double-technical to Pierce and Wade, which meant Pierce had to be ejected.

Given how aggressive Pierce was with Jones on his first technical less than a minute earlier, Malloy may have been quick to T up Pierce because he was afraid the situation was escalating. In hindsight, it appears as though Malloy should have allowed Pierce to stay in the game, especially given the situation, but Malloy had to make a call in the heat of the moment.

After the game, referee Danny Crawford explained Pierce’s second technical, saying that Pierce “directed profanity at Wade,” which qualifies as a “verbal taunt.”

After the game, Celtic coach Doc Rivers said that both Jones and Wade’s fouls on Pierce should have been flagrant fouls, but he also said that Pierce should not have reacted. When Pierce was ejected, the Celtics were down 87-74. The Celtics outscored the Heat over the last seven minutes of the game, but it wasn’t enough for them to avoid a loss.

Report: Age minimum still on table in Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 23:  The full draft board of the first 30 pics of the first round of the 2016 NBA Draft is seen at the Barclays Center on June 23, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
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A new Collective Bargaining Agreement is expected to be finished soon, but with months until the current deal expires, both the owners and players can afford to take their time and get the details right.

Both sides reportedly agreed to keep the age minimum – which requires players to be 19 and one year removed from their high school class’ graduation – in place.

Or not?

David Aldridge of NBA.com:

Other issues, like the age limit for players entering the league, are still on the table. The league has long sought to increase the age limit from its current 19, and at least one year removed from one’s high school class, to at least 20 years of age. The union has talked about a “zero and two” setup, similar to that used by baseball — players can enter the Draft out of high school, but if they choose to go to college, they have to stay in college at least two years (in baseball, it’s three years) before declaring for the Draft.

The union wants to lower the age minimum. Adam Silver wants to raise it.

Most likely, the current one-and-done rule remains in place.

But a zero-or-two setup could be an interesting compromise. That would allow players certain they’re ready for the pros out of high school to declare for the NBA draft. In all other cases, Silver would get his wish.

Again, the status quo likely remains in tact. But it’s good both sides are discussing the issue to see whether there’s a better solution.

76ers increase Joel Embiid’s minute limit to 28

Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid, left, tries to get around Cleveland Cavaliers' DeAndre Liggins, center, and Kevin Love during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Nov. 27, 2016, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
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Take comfort, chairs and staffers.

The 76ers have raised Joel Embiid‘s minute limit from 24 to 28.

Jessica Camerato of CSN Philly:

This was never a hard limit. Embiid played more than 24 minutes in five of his 12 games with a high of 27 in an overtime contest. Presumably, the new “limit” will also allow for Embiid to sometimes it.

Embiid’s numbers per 36 minutes are eye-popping: 28.6 points, 12.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 3.8 blocks and 6.4 turnovers. A small workload likely factors into his per-minute dominance, and he’s still a long way from typical starter minutes. But I’m interested to see how his production translates over a larger sample.

The 76ers, in their mission to be less bad this season, will also appreciate a few more minutes of Embiid. They defend like the NBA’s second-best defense with him on the floor and the league’s second-worst defense without him. They also score a little better with him. Overall, they get outscored by just 2.2 points per 100 possessions with him and a whopping 14.2 points per 100 possessions without him.

This could give Philadelphia a couple extra wins over the rest of the season. At minimum, it’ll make the 76ers more enjoyable to watch for a few more minutes each game.

James Johnson dunks on Rudy Gobert in crunch time (video)

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Opponents shoot just 41.8% at the rim with Rudy Gobert defending it – which is now second to Hassan Whiteside among the 50 players who defend the most shots at the rim per game.

But James Johnson went up with no fear, scoring two of his 24 points in the Heat’s 111-110 win over the Jazz last night.

Nicolas Batum bounces assist through Dwight Powell’s legs (video)

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The Hornets didn’t just beat the Mavericks, 97-87, last night.

Nicolas Batum got Charlotte style points with this pass through Dwight Powell‘s legs, assisting Cody Zeller.