Celtics-76ers: Something old, something new

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Players fought on the court. Police intervened. Another player fought the police. The teams combined for 107 fouls. Twelve players committed enough fouls to foul out, but some got to stay on the court anyway so there’d be enough to each side. Two players reached seven fouls. Bob Cousy scored 50 points, shooting 30-of-32 on free throws. The Boston Celtics eliminated the Syracuse Nationals with a 111-105 quadruple-overtime win in Game 2 of the 1953 Eastern Division semifinals.

And thus concluded the first playoff series between the longtime franchises.

The Celtics and 76ers, who moved to Philadelphia from Syracuse and changed their name, will meet again in the postseason tonight. The second-round series will be the record 20th playoff-series matchup between the franchises.

It also could be just the start of a renewed rivalry.

LeBron James has run the Eastern Conference for the better part of a decade with the Heat and Cavaliers, but his control appears to be slipping. Boston and Philadelphia look ready to take the throne, both teams set up to compete with each other for a long time.

The 76ers are led by 24-year-old Joel Embiid and 21-year-old Ben Simmons. They have an impressive and well-fitting supporting cast, and – especially 24-year-old Dario Saric – some of those secondary players are also still young. Philadelphia also has enough cap space to add another impact player this summer – maybe even LeBron.

The Celtics already acquired their stars, signing Gordon Hayward and trading for Kyrie Irving last summer and signing Al Horford the year before. Twenty-year-old Jayson Tatum and 21-year-old Jaylen Brown are so promising. Twenty-four-year-old Terry Rozier has gone from a joke topic to good player. Not that Brett Brown is a slouch, but Boston coach Brad Stevens is one of the NBA’s most-respected coaches.

And both teams have extra draft picks, some very valuable. (The Celtics acquired one from the 76ers, who traded up to draft Markelle Fultz No. 1 last year.)

This arms race started years ago in both Boston and Philadelphia.

Celtics president Danny Ainge traded Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to the Nets while those two were still leading teams to the playoffs and got a boatload of picks. Ainge kept flipping veterans – Rajon Rondo, Jeff Green and even Coach Doc Rivers for more draft picks.

Sam Hinkie’s Process gave Philadelphia a wealth of assets. Not only did they tank their way to several high picks (drafting Embiid and Simmons), the 76ers cleverly extracted extra selections from win-now teams looking to shed salary.

Now, Philadelphia is ready to win and still, like Boston, has extra picks still coming (unlike the Raptors, who had the East’s best record this season but also have older stars and are out this year’s first-rounder). The 76ers and Celtics can use those extra picks to infuse their teams with young talent or trade them for immediate upgrades. The luxury is in the choice.

This won’t be the marquee matchup that awaits in years to come. Irving and Hayward (and Daniel Theis) are out for Boston. Philadelphia is the big favorite.

But even in a rivalry more than six decades old, this feels like just the start of something.

Report: Bucks will do everything they can to keep Khris Middleton

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Milwaukee Bucks star Khris Middleton has been the subject of much discussion around the NBA, both as a potential trade target and as a free agent signing in the summer of 2019. Middleton is a crucial part of a Milwaukee lineup that needs his presence on the wing, and externally there appears to be some pressure on the Bucks to win this season with some uncertainty surrounding Middleton return next year.

Middleton has a player option for next season, and Eric Bledsoe is also in need of a new deal. However, thanks to the contracts of Giannis Antetokounmpo, George Hill, and Tony Snell, it’s going to take some fancy to financial footwork for Milwaukee to keep both of their star guards.

Still, the smart thing for the Bucks to do would be to re-sign Middleton if they can and keep this core together. Milwaukee should want to avoid a backslide into the years prior, where mediocre talent surrounded a rising Antetokounmpo.

According to a new report from Yahoo Sports, at least one Bucks official says they are going to try to do everything they can to keep Middleton in Wisconsin.

Via Yahoo:

The Bucks feel Middleton can fill that role and should he opt out to hit free agency, a Bucks official told Yahoo Sports: “We’re gonna do everything we can to keep him.”

That quote doesn’t necessarily mean that Milwaukee is going to stretch past a financial limit they set for themselves to sign Middleton. “Everything they can” might be going up to a certain limit and trying to convince Middleton to take the deal in order to build something in Milwaukee.

Middleton will have plenty of suitors, and many expect teams like the Los Angeles Lakers will come calling with big offers this summer. For now the Bucks remain one of the best teams in the NBA and have the second best record in the Eastern Conference, and Middleton is a crucial reason why.

Larry Nance has buzzer-beating tip-in to beat Pacers (VIDEO)

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The Cleveland Cavaliers are not a good basketball team. Heading into Tuesday night’s game against the Indiana Pacers, LeBron James’ former squad had just seven wins.

Enter Larry Nance.

Where’s the Cavaliers down by one point with nine seconds to go in the fourth quarter, Rodney Hood took it upon himself to take what he thought would be the last shot for Cleveland. Hood danced around the defense before finally taking a jumper from the free-throw line, which bounced softly off the rim.

Nance, battling down low for the rebound, worked his way free for a tip-in as time expired.

Via Twitter:

There’s not much to cheer for in Cleveland this season but that’s a fun way to win a basketball game.

LeBron James on Anthony Davis joining Lakers: ‘That would be incredible’

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What counts as collusion these days in the NBA? What counts as tampering? It’s hard to say, but the league office takes a look at each and every comment like the one LeBron James made on Tuesday about New Orleans Pelicans big man Anthony Davis.

Speaking to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin, James said it would be incredible if Davis were somehow able to make his way onto the Los Angeles Lakers. This slots into the rumor around the NBA that LA is stockpiling its young core to be able to trade for a player like Davis.

Here’s the quote from LeBron, via ESPN:

“That would be amazing,” James told ESPN on Tuesday before the Lakers’ 115-110 loss to the Brooklyn Nets. “That would be amazing, like, duh. That would be incredible.”

There’s nothing much here that LeBron said that isn’t factual. Davis is a 5-time All-Star and one of the best players in the NBA, a unicorn not unlike LeBron himself.

The NBA is certainly hoping that the Lakers can get their act together and put a powerhouse around James at Staples Center. How he does it is up for debate, although making comments about current players probably isn’t the best idea. James has been able to keep his mouth shut for the most part, but perhaps talk of Davis is just too tempting.

NBA refs admit they missed James Harden’s shuffle-step travel

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Did James Harden travel on Monday night? Obviously.

But was Harden called for a travel by officials? No. At least, not at first.

Video of Harden’s ridiculous shuffle was circulated on social media after the Houston Rockets beat the Utah Jazz, 102-97. Harden was asked about the move by media, and said that he wasn’t going to tell on himself, which is fair enough.

On Tuesday the official NBA referee Twitter page decided to comment on the play at hand, admitting that they had made a mistake and had missed a travel.

Via Twitter:

Having a Twitter account hasn’t always worked out for the NBRA. Their explanations of what many would consider to be violations have often stood in the face of common sense. To that end, they’ve sometimes been mocked on social media, which is against their goal of having the social channel in the first place. But this play with Harden was a particular sore subject with fans around the league, and it was right of them in to make a comment.

At least they got it right.