Trade Deadline Winners/Losers: It’s a good day to be a Pacers fan

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It was the day of the role player.

There was a fair amount of action at the NBA’s trade deadline but none of it involved the big names that floated around a little — no Rajon Rondo or Pau Gasol, and Kevin Love was never in play. Still, some teams made smart moves, and some players did not have a good day.

Yes, it’s really too early to know who will be the winners and losers from the trade deadline, but we’re going to do it anyway.

WINNER: Evan Turner and the Indiana Pacers. Indiana rolled the dice here but you have to love a contending team willing to take smart risks to get better. Larry Bird showed some stones with this move. Evan Turner could be a big winner too — and could make himself a lot of money. Indiana shipped out Danny Granger, who since his return from knee surgery was a shadow of his former All-Star self — 8.3 points a game with a true shooting percentage of 49.1. Evan Turner is better scorer right now than Granger — he’s not better from three (although Evans showed a much better touch shooting 36 percent from deep last season) but he is a slashing volume scorer putting up 17 points a game and doing it with a true shooting percentage of 50.4 (below the league average but better than Granger). Turner brings to the Pacers’ second unit the kind of attacking Lance Stephenson brings to the Pacers’ first unit — just not nearly as efficiently. That is the key. Turner has benefited (and inflated his scoring totals) with the fast pace the Sixers play at, but the Pacers are betting he come in and put up numbers off the bench for Indiana. The question is how will he fit the system? Can he be effective when not pounding the rock for seven seconds than driving? Can he work off the ball? Can he defend? Can he play well with C.J. Watson and Luis Scola and blend in as a scorer? If the answer to those questions is yes not only did the already imposing Pacers get better, they got deeper (Lavoy Allen also can add some shooting to the bench). And if he shows he can fit in with a team like this, Turner will make himself more money as a free agent this summer.

LOSER: Thaddeus Young. Evan Turner is competing for a title with the Pacers now. Spencer Hawes is going to Cleveland to get passes from Kyrie Irving and see if he can help lift a team that won six in a row into the playoffs. Thaddeus Young is stuck in Philadelphia without those guys. Young is a proud, professional veteran and this kind of losing and struggling with a young team can’t be fun. Now he gets to do it alone… well except for Danny Granger.

WINNER: Golden State Warriors. Klay Thompson is second in the NBA in total minutes played. Stephen Curry is 15th on that list. That’s a lot of minutes for a guy in Curry with an injury history. Mark Jackson has had to ride his starting backcourt because of a lack of quality guard depth — Steve Blake fixes that. He is rock solid, can play the one and the two, shoots the three ball, plays well in space or in the half court, he is just a top-to-bottom professional guard. Exactly the kind of guy that the Warriors needed. Golden State stumbled before the All-Star break, this is the kind of move they needed.

LOSER: Danny Granger. You can’t feel too bad for a guy in the last year of a $13 million contract, but this had to be emotional and hard for him. Pacers fans on twitter seemed torn — their heads knew this was a smart trade by Larry Bird, but they are still emotionally invested in Danny Granger, and in his comeback. Now he gets ripped out of the place he has ever played as a pro and thrown onto a rebuilding team in Philly. That’s rough.

WINNER: Charlotte Bobcats. Charlotte may not have come into this season looking to make the playoffs, but after their fast start and now as the eight seed in the East, they don’t want to give it up. This move helps that. The Bobcats need floor-spacing shooting — Al Jefferson scores on the block and Kemba Walker is a slasher, but they need shooters and they got one in Gary Neal (36 percent from three this season, 39 percent for his career). Neal will not be asked to play the point and create in Charlotte (which is a good thing for all basketball fans), he just needs to shoot. In addition he has plenty of playoff experience from his time in San Antonio. While Ramon Sessions is a solid guard off the bench, he’s a scoring slasher, he is not a passer. Now the Bobcats bring in a solid, professional backup pure point guard in Luke Ridnour who will orchestrate the second unit. With talent around him he makes good decisions. Charlotte got better with this trade — they are just 1.5 games out of the five seed in the East and they have to look at climbing the ladder now, not worrying about who is behind them (they just swept a home-and-home from the Pistons anyway).

LOSER: Jimmer Fredette. There are just not a lot of Fredette fans in front offices around the NBA. According to reports, the Kings were asking for a second round pick for Fredette and nobody wanted to take that deal. Fredette is making $2.4 million this season and no other team thought that cost and a second pick was worth Fredette, which seems a little bit of a surprise but that is how far his stock has fallen.

WINNER: Andre Miller. Freedom, sweet freedom. He had been banished to Brian Shaw’s dog house in Denver, now he gets a chance in Washington to be the veteran voice in the locker room (along with Nene) and get some quality minutes behind John Wall. Now, Miller is an outspoken veteran and let’s just say not every one of his former players is a big Randy Wittman fan — fireworks are a real possibility — but for now Miller gets to play and be a part of a team again, and that is a win.

LOSER: We the fans. We love trades, we love to play GM and find a way we can get LeBron James and Paul George to our team and all we have to give up is an aging veteran and a case of ankle tape. And in years past we’ve seen some monster trade deadline moves in the NBA. Not the last two years. For one, the new CBA shortened contracts and teams got to amnesty their worst ones, so the day of “take my expiring contract, please” are gone. In addition, teams are hesitant to give up picks both because they like the draft (this year’s in particular but the next couple are also good) and because under the new CBA rookie contracts are important. Also, more and more deals just get done in the summer or earlier in the season (Rudy Gay and Luol Deng this season, for example). I can explain the “why?” That doesn’t make it any more fun — we love big splashy deadline day trades and we haven’t seen those for a couple of years now. And we may not for a while.

How do you like “The Process” now? Sixers eliminate Heat, advance to second round

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It felt inevitable.

Not “The Process” from the start. There were some severe downs before the ups.

Not this first playoff series against Miami from the start, because it felt even… until Game 3 when Joel Embiid returned in his mask and tipped the scales.

No, it was Game 5’s result felt inevitable as it unfolded. Not because Philadelphia won the previous game in Miami and could close it out at home. Not because the Sixers have the two biggest talents in the series in Ben Simmons and Embiid.

Rather, Game 5 felt inevitable because the Sixers got better looks all night long. They got them with ball movement, with player movement that created mismatches or clean jumpers. It was tied 46-46 at the half because Philadelphia just missing its good looks while the Heat were struggling with hands in their face all night. Philadelphia shot 38.1 percent in the first half overall and were 2-of-12 from three.

In the third quarter, it all changed.

Philadelphia went on an early 9-0 run, shot 50 percent as a team for the quarter, all while continuing to play defense and get stops. The Sixers won the third 34-20 and held on through Miami rallies in the fourth to take the game comfortably, 104-91.

With the win, Philadelphia wins the series 4-1 and advances to the second round, where they will face either Boston or Milwaukee (Boston leads the series 3-2).

They did it behind 27 from J.J. Redick, who knocked down five threes. Embiid had 19 points and 12 rebounds, Simmons had 14 points, 10 rebounds, and six assists. However, it was the defense that held the Miami to 38.6 percent shooting overall and 16-of-31 from three within eight feet of the basket that won the game for Philly.

This young Sixers team learned lessons in this first round, and maybe the biggest was how to adapt the physicality of the playoffs, and keeping your cool while things don’t go your way.

“I thought we withstood the physicality of the Heat,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said. “They’re a great organization. They came to mean it, we knew they wouldn’t go away easily, and we had to have that physical element to match.”

They matched that physicality, but what they had was talent that could step up.

They also savored the moment. Midway through the fourth, up comfortably and still knocking down shots, the young Sixers were reveling in the deafening crowd in the Wells Fargo Center. Philadelphia was reveling in success after years of struggling through the process — the players and fans wanted to start that party midway through the fourth.

However, Heat have no chill and no quit in them, they went on a 10-0 in the fourth quarter, not-so-coincidentally after Sixers fans started chanting, “We want Boston!”

But when it mattered the Heat couldn’t get stops — the Sixers talent showed through. Redick hit threes. Embiid owned the paint. Simmons did a little bit of everything.

It was a moment of revelry in Philadelphia. One years in the making — and maybe the first in many years of future celebrations on that court.

Sixers players douse Brett Brown, present him with bell after closing Heat (VIDEO)

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The Philadelphia 76ers are moving on. Let’s just try to process that for a moment.

After beating the Miami Heat on Tuesday night, 104-91, this iteration of the Sixers experienced their first playoff series win together. It was also the first series win for coach Brett Brown as the man in charge of an NBA team.

As such, players gathered in the locker room after the win to hear Brown speak about the win, and about how the team had more to give and to learn as they moved forward together in the playoffs.

When Brown concluded his speech, he tried to hand off the victory bell to JJ Redick. As soon as Redick received it, he bestowed the honor of the bell right back upon Brown.

That’s when teammates showered Brown with whatever they had nearby, and Brown rung the bell.

Man, what a moment.

Marcus Smart returns, helps Celtics win Game 5 over Bucks

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Marcus Smart returned to the Boston Celtics after suffering a thumb injury earlier in the year, and boy was it just in time.

The Celtics guard came off the bench, doing what he does best: attacking opposing guards, grabbing rebounds, and making hustle plays for his squad. Smart thoroughly annoyed the Milwaukee Bucks, and as Giannis Antetokounmpo failed to make a push in the second half (and as Khris Middleton‘s shooting slowly deteriorated) it was Boston who came out with a win in Game 5, 92-87.

Milwaukee’s offense failed to show up early. According to NBA TV, it was the second-lowest halftime total for the Bucks this season, and the away team scored just 37 points at the break. Milwaukee struggled mightily as a team, shooting just 21 percent from 3-point range. Despite the issues, both Antetokounmpo and Middleton had 11 points by half.

Boston’s attack was balanced, with nine players scoring in the first half but none reaching double figures. Smart was effective off the bench, playing 12 minutes in the first half. Smart’s presence was felt elsewhere on the floor as well; in those minutes he racked up two blocks, two rebounds, and two assists.

The Celtics stalled to start the third quarter, at times going several minutes between baskets. The intensity level was still high, particularly during one tussle with 9:33 left in the third. Eric Bledsoe and Terry Rozier got into a bumping match on the baseline away from the ball, resulting in one player getting pushed into an official. Bledsoe earned a Flagrant 1 for his efforts, and Rozier was assessed a technical.

Milwaukee began to battle back on surprising baskets by Shabazz Muhammad. The former Minnesota Timberwolves wing dropped two 3-pointers to help the Bucks make a run at the Celtics all the way into the fourth quarter.

The critical play of the game came with 80 seconds left. With the shot clock winding down, Al Horford was allowed by officials to shoot a long jumper. The refereeing crew didn’t blow the whistle, and Boston took a second possession after a backtip.

Then, with 28 seconds left as the Bucks were trying to steal or foul the Celtics, came the play Boston fans had been waiting for from Smart. At first it appeared Milwaukee had shot at a turnover as they hustled Smart to the floor on a trap. Thinking quickly, Smart leapt on the lost ball, flipped over, and sent a pass to a wide open Horford for the basket, all but sealing the game.

Milwaukee tried to play the foul game in the final minute or so, but weren’t able to come up with a win. Antetokounmpo finished with just 16 points and Middleton with 23. Horford led the Celtics with 22 points, 14 rebounds, and three assists.

Boston now leads the series, 3-2, as they head back to Milwaukee for Game 6 on Thursday.

Meek Mill gets out of jail, takes helicopter to 76ers-Heat, rings bell pregame

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Philadelphia 76ers big man Joel Embiid had been one of the most notable NBA players leading the charge for the #FreeMeekMill movement. The rapper Meek Mill, a Philadelphia native and Sixers fan, has been incarcerated for violating the terms of his probation multiple times.

At the heart of the movement to free Meek Mill is the idea of comparative justice, that he has been unfairly targeted because of his race as an absorber of punishment from the penal system despite it being a decade since he committed his crime. People from Embiid to New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft have made their voices heard on the subject.

Today, Meek Mill was released from prison and was sent a special gift: the opportunity to fly via helicopter, provided by 76ers minority owner Michael Rubin, to Game 5 between the Sixers and Miami Heat.

When he arrived at the game, the rapper rung the ceremonial bell before tip-off.

Not a couple of hours fresh out of the joint.