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Several teams began to leave the NBL for the BAA as the foundation for an absorption was laid.
The Syracuse Nationals began play in the NBL in the same year professional basketball was finally gaining some legitimacy with the rival Basketball Association of America that was based in large cities like New York and Philadelphia.
However, in the semifinals the Nats would fall to the Anderson Duffey Packers for the second straight season in 4 games.
In 1949, the Nationals were one of seven NBL teams that were absorbed by the Basketball Association of America to form the NBA.
However, in the playoffs the Nats played their best basketball of the season as they stunned the 1st place Philadelphia Warriors in 2 straight, taking Game 1 on the road in overtime 91–89.
In the Eastern Finals the Nationals were beaten by the New York Knickerbockers in a hard-fought 5-game series, losing the finale by just 2 points.
While in the NBL with teams largely consisting of small Midwestern towns, the Nationals put together a 21–23 record, finishing in 4th place.
In the playoffs, the Nats would be beaten by the fellow upstate neighbor Rochester Royals in 4 games.
In their second season, 1947–48, the Nationals would struggle, finishing in 5th place with a 24–36 record.
Despite their struggles, the Nats would make the playoffs, getting swept by the Anderson Duffey Packers in 3 straight games.
The Nationals were an instant success in the NBA, winning the Eastern Division in the 1949–50 season, with a league best record of 51–13.
In the playoffs the Nationals continued to play solid basketball, beating the Philadelphia Warriors in 2 straight.
Al Cervi, playing less and coaching more, emphasized a patient offense and a scrappy defense, which led the league in the 1951–52 season by yielding a stingy 79.5 points per game as the Nationals won the Eastern Division with a solid 40–26 record.