Paul Pierce is playing with a pinched nerve in his neck

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Paul Pierce has been playing in pain all season.

If you saw the slight downtick in his scoring numbers — scoring 18.5 points a game, one less than last year, shooting 41.5 percent, down from 44.3 percent — you could easily attribute that to age for the 35-year-old who still carries a heavy scoring load for Boston.

But it’s more than that, he’s been playing with a pinched nerve in his neck all season, he told Jessica Camerato of CSNNE.com.

“It’s something that’s been bothering me probably like the last two months,” Pierce said after the Celtics 71-69 win over the Chicago Bulls. “It’s getting better, though. The last couple of weeks, it’s been better than it has been.”

Note to Dwight Howard: This is how you handle things. Don’t complain to the media, don’t make excuses, play as hard as you can through everything and let the chips fall where they fall. If you put out the effort, fans are amazingly forgiving.

And Pierce puts out the effort. He has had to take on a larger playmaking and scoring role since Rajon Rondo went down, and he didn’t blink. In fact, the Celtics have won seven of eight.

He will have to put out a lot more effort in the stretch run of the regular season and the playoffs if Boston is going to make any kind of run. You know he will give it his all.

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.)