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Report: As expected, Nuggets’ Danilo Gallinari will opt into free agency this summer

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When Danilo Gallinari can stay healthy and on the court, he’s the kind of guy a lot of teams could use — a 6’10” wing player who shot 38.7 percent from three last season, he can catch-and-shoot or create his own shot off the bounce, and he’s a solid defender against threes or fours. He averaged 18.2 points and 5.3 rebounds a game for the Nuggets last season. In the 63 games he played.  And that’s the issue — that’s the most he’s played in four seasons.

Because of his production, there is going to be a healthy market for Gallinari, which is why he was always expected to opt out of the final year of his deal with Denver — where he is owed $16.1 million — and test the market. He will do just that reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

Denver Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari intends to pass on the $16.1 million player option on his 2017-18 contract and become an unrestricted free agent this summer, league sources told The Vertical.

Gallinari will become one of the top available forwards in the July marketplace, but league sources say that he remains open to the possibility of returning to the Nuggets on a long-term deal.

Gallinari will be in the second tier of free agent forwards, but teams that strike out trying to land Blake Griffin, Gordon Hayward, or Paul Millsap (and all three of those players may take max offers to stay where they are) will likely pick up the phone and call about Gallinari. (I would expect Denver to put out feelers to Millsap.)

That said, Gallinari was a fantastic fit with Nikola Jokic — when those two were on the court together last season the Nuggets outscored opponents by 8.2 points per 100 possessions. His ability to space the floor is a perfect fit with Jokic’s vision and passing.  Plus, with those two on the court the defense was mildly improved over the team’s woeful average.

It will not be cheap, but Denver may choose to pay up and keep Gallinari. Then hope that he can just stay healthy and on the court.

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.)