Paul Pierce, LeBron James

Celtics not impressed by Heat’s 21-game win streak

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The Heat won their 21st straight game on Friday in Milwaukee, and while there’s no easily predictable end to the winning on the Miami horizon, at least one team isn’t lining up to fawn over the defending champs.

The Celtics are in the seventh spot in the Eastern Conference playoff picture, and are just a half-game out of fifth after going on a legitimate run following the season-ending injury to Rajon Rondo. Boston is the one old-school, throwback team that has nothing positive to say about its conference rivals, and its players went on record Friday as being anything but impressed by Miami’s current stretch of winning basketball.

From Chris Forsberg of ESPN Boston:

“Not really impressed with it or anything that they do,” said Terry, who has a history with Miami from his Dallas days when the two teams met in the 2011 Finals. “So, for me, it’s more about what our team is doing and how we’re coming together as a unit.”

Asked whether he wants the Heat to still be carrying that streak on Monday, [Paul Pierce] offered, “I really don’t even care. I hope they lose every game the rest of the season. I just worry about what this team does.”

This is what makes the Celtics who they are, and it’s what gives them an edge beyond their won-loss record once the postseason begins.

There’s a competitive fire and a chip on the shoulder that the veterans in Boston take with them into each and every game. From a pure talent perspective, the Celtics can’t hang with the efficient execution of a team led by LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. But aging guys like Terry and Pierce (and of course, Kevin Garnett) treat every one of their battles like it may be their last.

Should Miami win in Toronto on Sunday afternoon, the win streak would be at 22 as the Heat head to Boston to face the Celtics the following night. It’s not like they’ll need any motivation to continue their winning ways, but in case they find themselves searching, the quotes from Pierce and Terry should more than suffice.

TNT to cover NBA games with only former players, no traditional play-by-play men

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 19:  Grant Hill #33 of the Phoenix Suns looks to move the ball as Derek Fisher #2 of the Los Angeles Lakers defends in the first quarter of Game Two of the Western Conference Finals during the 2010 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center on May 19, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. 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 Harry How/Getty Images)
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NEW YORK (AP) — TNT will use broadcast teams featuring only former players and no traditional play-by-play men during five NBA doubleheaders later this season.

The “Players Only” schedule runs Monday nights from Feb. 27 to March 27 and includes matchups such as Golden State-Oklahoma City on March 20 and Cleveland-San Antonio a week later.

Brent Barry will serve as the primary host of one team with Derek Fisher and Grant Hill, while Greg Anthony partners with Kevin McHale and Richard Hamilton on the other.

Lisa Leslie and Dennis Scott will serve as reporters.

Turner Sports says Thursday that Chris Webber will anchor the studio coverage with Isiah Thomas and Baron Davis, and that additional NBA players will contribute to the five-week program.

James Harden presents fan with game ball on her 100th birthday (video)

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HOUSTON (AP) — James Harden took some time out after the Houston Rockets’ win over the visiting Milwaukee Bucks to give a fan a present on a her 100th birthday.

Video shows Harden signing a ball for the woman and spending a few moments sitting next to her in her courtside seat and posing for pictures Wednesday night.

Harden told ESPN’s Doris Burke in an interview that he told the woman how “blessed” he was to be able to have a chance to meet her.

The Houston guard also put on a good show for the fan during the game, scoring 38 points in a 111-92 victory over the Bucks.

Paul George dunks on DeMarcus Cousins while getting whacked in the face (video)

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Kings center DeMarcus Couins appears set to become the first player to sign as a veteran designated player. The Pacers hope Paul George will follow.

But in the Pacers’ win over the Kings yesterday, George beat Cousins.

Not even Cousins thwacking George in the face could stop this dunk.

Report: Khris Middleton could return to Bucks before All-Star break

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 16:  Khris Middleton #22 of the Milwaukee Bucks reacts during their game against the Charlotte Hornets at Time Warner Cable Arena on January 16, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. 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 Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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The Bucks projected Khris Middleton to miss about 70 games when he tore his hamstring before the season. That extended absence often leads players just to shut down for the year, but Middleton vowed to return in time for the playoffs.

He might get back far sooner than that.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

Sources told ESPN.com the Bucks think Middleton, who suffered a hamstring tear just days before the season began, “has a chance” to return to the lineup during a three-game homestand next month before the All-Star ‎break.

Whether Middleton ultimately makes his season debut before or after the All-Star Game, he is expected to be kept on a minutes restriction as he eases way his back from the injury, sources said.

The Bucks have started Tony Snell, who has held his own as an outside shooter. But Middleton will upgrade Milwaukee on Snell’s biggest strength and provide massive defensive improvement. After a strong start, the Bucks have really struggled lately on that end.

Giannis Antetokounmpo has led Milwaukee to a 20-21 record, though the team is better than its won-loss mark indicates. The Bucks will be even better with Middleton, who will rival Jabari Parker as their second-best player and fit seamlessly.