Free agents, the end of the season and ugly basketball

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The Clippers are just hard to watch right now. Even in comparison to their usual hard-to-watchness, their play the last few months is just painful.

ESPN’s brilliant Kevin Arnovitz watches every Clipper game — he’s a masochist that way — but he had a very interesting explanation for this recent play since the Clippers fired Mike Dunleavy.

But one reason that players, coaches and management continue to cite is the unusual number of players on the roster with expiring contracts. After the Clippers’ 117-94 loss to Dallas, interim head coach Kim Hughes tried to account for his team’s careless play:

“In late-season scenarios when you have as many free agents as we do, human nature takes effect sometimes. They look for points instead of the team first. That bothered me tonight. We had some guys looking for points too much. That should never occur, but it did occur. It’s not right, but it did happen. It’s not the way I like to play basketball, but when you have as many free agents as we do, I think it’s going to happen at times.”

You are seeing this same phenomenon with other teams, for example every team currently or within the next few years expected to play in the New York metropolitan area.

We’re seeing more of it this year with so many teams forsaking this season in hopes of landing one of the big free agents this summer. There are a lot of guys whose contracts come to an end.

As Arnovitz points out, hard to totally blame the players. If one Clipper right now was making the right plays and giving up his okay looks to a teammate for better looks, do you think that would really help him come free agency? Studies have shown what we all knew already — score more and you get paid more in the NBA. Doing the right thing can hurt your pocket book. So guys get selfish.

If teams start paying smarter — start using more advanced metrics to evaluate players — some of this can go away. But it never will completely. We’re always going to get some selfish, ugly ball every March and April.

Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook go head-to-head, literally (video)

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This sure didn’t look like just another game for Kevin Durant – and not only because the Thunder beat the Warriors for the first time since he left.

The 108-91 Oklahoma City victory didn’t look like just another game for Russell Westbrook (34 points, 10 rebounds, nine assists and four steals), either.

Harrison Barnes banks in game-winning, buzzer-beating 3-pointer (video)

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With the shot clock off in the fourth quarter and the game tied, Grizzlies big JaMychal Green put back Tyreke Evans‘ miss with a clutch flush. There’s a very fine line between ensuring the last shot and leaving time for an offensive rebound, and Memphis threated it almost perfectly.

Emphasis on “almost.”

The Grizzlies left the Mavericks 0.5 seconds, which Harrison Barnes used to bank in a 3-pointer – off a pinpoint bounce pass by Dennis Smith Jr. – to give Dallas a 95-94 win.

Heat snap Celtics’ 16-game winning streak

AP Photo/Lynne Sladky
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The Celtics didn’t have another comeback in them.

After overcoming a 13-point fourth-quarter deficit against the Mavericks on Monday to extend its winning streak to 16 games, Boston lost to the Heat tonight, 104-98. The streak ends as the NBA’s longest since the Hawks won 19 straight during the 2014-15 season.

The Celtics trailed Miami by 16 in the fourth quarter then cut the deficit to only one with three minutes left. But Dion Waiters hit back-to-back 3-pointers, helping the Heat pull away.

Goran Dragic (27 points) and Waiters (26 points) led Miami, which needed a reason to feel good after losing three of four to fall to 7-9.

The Celtics, on the other hand, still have a four-game cushion over the rest of the Eastern Conference. This might help them regain focus.

Serge Ibaka gets dunked on by Enes Kanter, hit in face by ball (video)

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Is Enes Kanter mad Serge Ibaka rifted with his family?

(No, not this family. That family.)