B.J. Upton finds himself a new team

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B.J. Upton finds himself a new team

From Comcast SportsNetATLANTA (AP) -- Free-agent outfielder B.J. Upton and the Atlanta Braves have agreed to a 75.25 million, five-year contract, a person familiar with the deal said Wednesday night.The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the deal had not been completed. It is expected to be announced Thursday once Upton passes his physical.Upton's deal would be the biggest free-agent contract of the offseason so far and the largest in Braves history.The 28-year-old Upton hit .246 with 28 homers, 78 RBIs and 31 stolen bases for Tampa Bay last season. He will replace free agent Michael Bourn as the Braves' center fielder and provide a needed right-handed power bat for the lineup.Upton made his debut with Tampa Bay in 2004. His first full season was 2007, when he hit a career-best .300 with 24 homers and 22 stolen bases.The speedy outfielder's home run totals have increased in each of the last three seasons, but he has hit below .250 with more than 150 strikeouts in four straight years.Bourn was the Braves' leadoff hitter, but Upton is not expected to fill that role. The Braves might shop for a left fielder to hit leadoff, with Martin Prado expected to move from the outfield to third base following Chipper Jones' retirement.Young shortstop Andrelton Simmons, who hit .289 with a .335 on-base percentage as a rookie, could be an option to bat leadoff. Prado was the normal No. 2 hitter.The deal with Upton comes only five days before the start of baseball's winter meetings in Nashville, Tenn.Upton is an expensive addition, but the big move is not a surprise.General manager Frank Wren said after the season he would have funds available to make a notable offseason acquisition. Jones had a 14 million base salary last season and Bourn's was 6,845,000.Wren said he entered the offseason with "a pretty narrow focus" because he only had to replace Bourn and Jones."Beyond that, our club is pretty solid," Wren said after the Braves' wild-card playoff loss to St. Louis.Upton adds to what Wren said is a "dynamic young core" of players. He will join first baseman Freddie Freeman, right fielder Jason Heyward, catcher Brian McCann and second baseman Dan Uggla as power hitters.McCann's status for the start of the season is uncertain. He had surgery on his right shoulder in October. The rehabilitation could carry into the first month of the season.Gerald Laird signed a two-year, 3 million deal with Atlanta earlier this month to serve as McCann's backup. Laird, who hit .282 with AL champion Detroit, could open the season as the starter if McCann is not ready.

C's edge out Sixers 107-106

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C's edge out Sixers 107-106

The Boston Celtics had another one of those nights when the defense took a lot longer to get on track than anyone with the Celtics could have felt comfortable about.

But they made just enough plays down the stretch to squeak out a 107-106 win.

Isaiah Thomas led all scorers with 37 points to go with seven assists.

Philadelphia's Dario Saric, who finished with 21 points and 12 rebounds off the bench, missed a 3-pointer that was defended tightly by Jonas Jerebko, that was rebounded by Marcus Smart.

With 8.6 seconds to play, Smart made both free throws to make it a two-possession game.

Philadelphia's Ersan Ilyasova hit a 3-pointer with 2.8 seconds to play, which led to Boston's Brad Stevens immediately calling a time-out.

Coming out of the time-out, Boston's Jae Crowder in-bounded the ball to Al Horford who was fouled with 1.7 seconds to play.

Horford made both free throws to seal the victory. With a four-point lead, Ilyasova hit yet another 3-pointer as the final horn expired.

Down the stretch, the Celtics were led by Thomas who scored 12 of their last 17 points.

After leading 90-88, Thomas scored eight straight to put Boston ahead 98-91.

But the Sixers were getting a career night from Saric whose scoop shot with 34.6 seconds to play tied the game at 100.

Following a Celtics time-out, Thomas continued his dominant fourth quarter with a blow by lay-up past Saric.

The Sixers, down 102-100, called a time-out with 30 seconds.

Philadelphia had three shots at the rim following the time-out, but the ball eventually wound up in the hands of Avery Bradley who was fouled with 16.3 seconds to play.

Bradley,who had 20 points and nine rebounds, made the second of the two free throws that put Boston ahead by three points.

After being tied at 74 through three quarters, the Celtics opened the fourth with an 8-2 run highlighted by an Al Horford 3-pointer that made it an 82-76 game.

The Sixers called a time-out with 10:22 to play, well aware that the game’s fleeting momentum was squarely in Boston’s favor.

Philadelphia didn’t fall too far behind, but the Celtics’ control of the game seemed to continue to grow.

Boston got back into the game with timely stops, big blocks (Jaylen Brown) and a bunch of multiple effort plays which collectively were in stark contrast to how things went in the first half.

Philadelphia has been among the worst teams in the NBA this season, and were playing without their best player Joel Embiid who does not play in the second night of back-to-back games (Philadelphia played Orlando on Friday night).

So without their best interior force offensively, the Sixers relied heavily on their 3-point shooting.

It was a good strategy that the Celtics had no answer for in the first half which was one in which Boston spent primarily playing catch-up.

The Sixers, who came into the game ranked ninth in the NBA in 3-point shooting (36.1 percent) and seventh in 3-pointers made (10.6), were a blistering 9-for-18 on 3s in the first half.

Meanwhile, Boston’s offense never seemed to get into any kind of flow or rhythm which was a key to the Celtics going into the half trailing 53-45 after having fallen behind by as many as 11 points.

At the half: Sixers applying pressure early and often against the Celtics

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At the half: Sixers applying pressure early and often against the Celtics

The Celtics are getting more than they bargained for against the Philadelphia 76ers who are once again, record-wise, among the worst teams in the NBA.

They didn’t look like it in the first half which ended with the Celtics trailing the Sixers 53-45.

Boston came into the game having won its last four road games. And they did so by playing solid defense, something that has been noticeably absent in the first half.

Philadelphia came into the game as one of the NBA’s better 3-point shooting teams and has lived up to the lofty ranking.

In the first half Philadelphia made nine of its 18 three-point attempts while the Celtics are way, way, way at the other end of the 3-point shooting spectrum while missing eight of their 11 3s with Isaiah Thomas making a pair with the lone other made 3-pointer coming from Marcus Smart.

The defense struggled, the offense never had any kind of flow and not surprisingly, the Celtics found themselves playing from behind most of the first half.

Here are the first half stars from Saturday’s game.

STARS

Sergio Rodriguez: His playmaking was solid as usual, but it was Rodriguez getting it going with his jumper that really produced surprisingly strong results for the Sixers. He had 11 points, four assists and a steal in the first half.

Isaiah Thomas: Playing his game which is shooting and attacking the rim, Thomas was Boston’s lone double-digit scorer in the first half with 15 points which is tops among all players.

STUDS

Dario Saric: It was a solid first half as Saric contributed both on the boards and the scoreboard. He had 10 points in the first half along with five rebounds.

Gerald Henderson: Henderson had one of those high efficiency-type games with 11 points on 4-for-5 shooting.

DUDS

Celtics 3-point shooting: It was a miserable first half for a team that has been among the NBA’s leaders in 3-pointers made and taken this season. At the half, Boston has shot 2-for-10 on 3's.

Celtics defense: Boston has shown little to no signs of providing the kind of push-back they’ll need in order to leave Philly with a win. In addition to allowing Philadelphia to shoot 47.4 percent from the field, Boston also allowed the Sixers to knock down nine 3's.