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Knicks’ slide continues as Celtics come from 15 down to win

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Because there might be a little rivalry between the two cities when it comes to sports, we’re rooting for — and could see — a New York/Boston first-round matchup. Boston is deadlocked with Chicago for first, and New York is comfortably in the seventh spot, with no reason to believe that the team will be climbing much higher, given its recent slide.

It was fitting, then, that the two teams clashed for an extremely physical battle that felt like playoff basketball on Monday at MSG. The only problem for the Knicks: very few teams have what it takes to play a physical 48 minutes against this Celtics team, and Boston was cool down the stretch as New York collapsed.

The Celtics came from 15 points down in the third, and nine points down with just over seven minutes remaining to win in typical Boston style, 96-86.

The physical play on both ends led to a star from each team being bloodied in the second half. Ray Allen caught an inadvertent elbow to the head from the Knicks Jared Jeffries late in the third quarter as the two both went up for a rebound. Allen was bleeding profusely, and headed to the locker room to get patched up. He returned to the game in the fourth with no stitches, just a big bandage above his right eye covering the wound.

Late in the fourth quarter, Carmelo Anthony went down near half court while bleeding from over his left eye, after colliding with Rajon Rondo while trying to steal a pass.

Physical basketball comes easy to this Celtics team, and while the Knicks tried to play that way for most of the night, they couldn’t sustain it in the fourth quarter when Boston kicked things into another gear. And, the Knicks had no answer for Paul Pierce down the stretch.

Pierce scored 13 points in the final quarter, and did so without missing a shot. He was a perfect 5 of 5 from the field, while converting both of his free throw attempts, and hitting his only attempt from three-point land. He also added two rebounds and two assists in the period.

While Boston went to Pierce time and again late — and shot 70 percent as a team in that final period — the Knicks struggled to get their shots off. Good looks were nonexistent against Boston’s choking defense, and New York managed to hit only four of its 16 shots in the fourth. Overall, the Celtics ran the Knicks out of the gym in the second half, outscoring them by 24 points (59-35) over the final two periods.

It was an epic collapse from the Knicks, but one that shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. Boston is a championship-caliber team, one with both the talent and the experience to close out games like this. When things got tight, the Knicks had no idea who to turn to as a stabilizing force, and looked completely lost when the Celtics turned up the pressure.

The loss was New York’s sixth in its last seven games, and for a team that thought it was ready to take a step forward after trading for Anthony, it now seems as though they’ll only be able to barely slide into the postseason.

Once they get there, Boston will be waiting to show them a very early exit.

Report: Paul Pierce probably wants to come back and play for Clippers, but still thinking it over

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The Los Angeles Clippers still have Paul Pierce under contract. Not many minutes for him, but he has a roster spot.

Pierce probably wants come back but is thinking it all over, according to Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times.

Pierce has been debating this with himself for a while now.

Pierce saw a dramatic drop off in production and how much he was used last season by Rivers. Pierce averaged a career-low 6.1 points per game on an also career low 48.9 true shooting percentage. His PER of 8.2 was also a career low. You get the idea. By the end of the season Pierce was mostly an afterthought for Doc Rivers (although he did start one game after Blake Griffin was out and the Clippers’ playoff dreams were toast).

Pierce would be more mentor than a key player on the court, but he would be on probably the third best team in the West, a team that capable of making a deep playoff run. Does he want to do that for one more season? You know Doc would welcome him.

Andrea Bargnani signing in Spain

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 14:  Andrea Bargnani #9 of the Brooklyn Nets takes a shot as Andrew Nicholson #44 of the Orlando Magic defends at Barclays Center on December 14, 2015 in the Brooklyn borough of  New York City.NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Andrea Bargnani said he would’ve played “for free” to prove himself with the Nets last season.

That would have been about the right price.

Bargnani suffered through a miserable season — full of injury, poor individual play and losing. Brooklyn eventually bought him out.

Now, the entire NBA might be finished with the former No. 1 pick.

Bargnani signed with Spanish team Saski Baskonia.

At age 30, he faces a long road back to world’s top league — if he even wants to try. Bargnani is a one-dimensional jump shooter, and he doesn’t even shoot that well.

It was ridiculous for the Knicks to trade a first-rounder for him, and that was three years ago already. Bargnani is only further from his peak now.

Maybe he carves out a niche in Europe, where his lack of physicality is less likely to be exposed. But Bargnani is no longer an NBA player.

Pat Riley: Dion Waiters ‘is not a room-exception player’

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - MAY 12: Dion Waiters #3 of the Oklahoma City Thunder reacts after hitting a basket against the San Antonio Spurs  during the first half of Game Six of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at the Chesapeake Energy Arena on May 12, 2016 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.   NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by J Pat Carter/Getty Images)
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The Heat signed Dion Waiters to a room-exception contract.

Heat president Pat Riley, via Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald:

“Dion is not a Room Exception player. He wanted to play for the Miami Heat and chose to forgo other more lucrative financial opportunities to be a part of our championship organization. We are very honored that he made the commitment to come to South Florida and sign with us. Dion is young, athletic and explosive, which fits in with our roster. He will add a great dimension for us at the off-guard spot. I really like the depth and versatility that we now have in our perimeter positions. Welcome aboard Dion!”

I’m really curious about those “more lucrative financial opportunities.”

The Thunder didn’t think Waiters was worth his one-year, $6,777,589 qualifying offer. They earmarked that money for a Russell Westbrook renegotiation-and-extension and don’t define the market themselves. But every team has other uses for its money than paying Waiters, and none deemed Waiters a priority.

How much could Waiters have gotten next season if he signed a multi-year deal rather than the 1+1 he inked with Miami? The whole “Waiters betting on himself” narrative falls apart if nobody was willing to bet more more on Waiters.

The 24-year-old is talented. But his ball-hogging, drifting focus and me-first attitude can be infuriating.

It behooves Riley to paint Waiters as more than a room-exception player, because that enhances Riley’s reputation as someone who lures free agents for less than market value. A big-time compliment from the influential Riley might have even part of Waiters’  contract negotiation.

But there’s a reason Waiters signed for the room exception. It has something to do with the type of player he is.

Report: Clippers exploring leaving Lakers at Staples Center, getting their own arena

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 29:  Jamal Crawford #11 of the Los Angeles Clippers pulls up for a shot between Brandon Bass #2 and D'Angelo Russell #1 of the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on January 29, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and condition of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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The Clippers don’t just play second fiddle to the Lakers in Los Angeles. They play second fiddle to the Lakers in their own arena.

Unless the Clippers want to move from the NBA’s second-biggest market, the former isn’t changing.

The Latter?

Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN:

The Clippers want to escape the Lakers’ shadow. Leaving the Staples Center wouldn’t turn the Clippers into L.A.’s team, but it’d give them a new avenue for attention — and revenue.

Of course, if the Clippers stay in the Staples Center, they’ll want the best terms possible. Leaking interest in a new arena only helps their bargaining position.