Let's be honest, the last week of the NBA regular season is borderline unwatchable. Teams with a shot to move up the draft board -- and hence down in the standings -- are tanking, while the best teams with their playoff slots solidified are resting their stars anticipating the grind of getting to the NBA Finals in June. The result is a lot of blowouts and googling players you've never seen before (no offense, Jeenathan Williams and Lindell Wigginton).
That being said, the last day of the season did not disappoint.
Sunday's batch of 15 Game 82s offered us everything we wanted to see, and a bit more -- or less, depending on your rooting interests. Playoff spots were up for grabs, which led to some intense, close games. And there was also some bonus entertainment, some of which bordered on absurdity.
Since there was so much action, we decided to rank the most ridiculous moments from the last day of the NBA season. Enjoy, re-live and reflect as we prepare for the postseason.
8. Kyrie Irving declines exit interview
While the other Dallas Mavericks, including Luka Doncic, gave exit interviews as they prepare for the offseason, mercurial point guard Kyrie Irving elected to take a pass, according to ESPN's Tim MacMahon.
Kyrie Irving declined to do an exit interview with the Dallas media. Other Mavs, including Luka Doncic, did exit interviews today.— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) April 9, 2023
This isn't much of a surprise, but Irving did ask reporters to respectfully refrain from asking the free agent about his offseason decision until after the season. Well, it's after the season and apparently he still doesn't want to talk about it. To each his own.
7. LeBron crowns himself
Pretty much since high school, LeBron has been known as The King or King James. He's backed it up, becoming the NBA's leading scorer and *arguably* the best player of all time. In 2019, Giannis Antetokounmpo from LeBron with a celebration in a big win over the Lakers. On Sunday, during Game 82, LeBron hit a big 3-pointer to seal a victory over the Utah Jazz ... and he took back the crown.
If this is a lifetime achievement crowning, sure. But for James to do this in a narrow victory to earn the No. 7 seed against a tanking Jazz team with all of its best players resting? Not exactly the best look.
LeBron deserves whatever crown he wants, but this may not have been the time or place for the coronation.
6. Udonis Haslem goes out with a bang
While he hasn't played consistent minutes in close to a decade, Udonis Haslem has been vital to the success of the Miami Heat through his leadership and camaraderie. Haslem has played all 20 of his NBA seasons with the Heat, one year shy of Dirk Nowitzki's record for seasons with a single franchise. Already having announced his plans to retire after the season, Haslem got one last moment to shine in his final game. And, boy, did he seize it.
The 42-year-old put up 24 points in 25 minutes, including three 3-pointers -- he had only made six in his entire career prior to Sunday -- and his first alley-oop dunk since 2014.
And the former greats and stars came out for this one as Dwyane Wade and Gabrielle Union were on hand, with D-Wade wearing a UD 40 jersey no less. What a send-off for the Heat legend.
5. Dust-up on Clippers bench
Consider this one to be a bit of foreshadowing for what's coming up in our top spot, as the Los Angeles Clippers had a bench skirmish of their own Sunday afternoon. They trailed for much of their matchup with the Phoenix Suns reserves (all of their top players were resting), and the frustration was manifested in a scuffle between Mason Plumlee and Bones Hyland. Plumlee screamed in the face of Hyland, who got even closer to the 7-footer before shoving him away.
Cooler heads prevailed, both Plumlee and Hyland were allowed to stay, and the Clippers wound up escaping with a 119-114 win, which earned them the No. 5 seed and a playoff matchup with those very same Phoenix Suns on the same floor -- although come next Sunday they'll have to contend with Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and Chris Paul instead of Jock Landale, Ish Wainright and Saben Lee.
4. Warriors set NBA record for first-quarter points
The Warriors needed to win on Sunday to avoid any chance at the play-in, and they didn't waste any time wiping the floor with the tanking Blazers. Golden State dropped an NBA-record 55 points in the first quarter, going 20 for 29 from the field and 12 for 18 from 3-point range. They were led by Klay Thompson's 17 points in the first frame, while Jordan Poole added 12 in five minutes.
Things didn't get any better for the Blazers, as the Warriors finished with a 157-101 victory, cruising to the No. 6 seed and a first-round matchup with the Sacramento Kings.
3. Mikal Bridges plays four seconds
We've seen teams do this before, but it's always a bit jarring. Brooklyn Nets forward Mikal Bridges started Sunday's finale against the Philadelphia 76ers, committed a foul immediately after the tip, then exited the game never to return. Why? Bridges has the longest active NBA streak at 392 consecutive games played, and getting on the court kept the streak alive. It also allowed Bridges to accomplish the rare feat of playing 83 games in one season, 56 for the Phoenix Suns and 27 for the Nets.
We all understand why he did it, and the streak is incredibly impressive during this load management era, but doesn't it at least kind of feel like cheating? Call me crazy, but doesn't it go against the spirit of the streak when you're not actually playing in the game? Anyway, this isn't the last time we'll see something like this, so we better get used to it.
2. Jaden McDaniels breaks his hand punching a wall
As if the Wolves didn't have enough to deal with in a must-win scenario -- yup, more foreshadowing -- starting forward and presumptive All-Defense selection Jaden McDaniels was ruled out for the rest of the game against the Pelicans after he was seen punching a wall in the tunnel heading the locker room.
These displays of frustration rarely end well and, sure enough, "wall" claimed yet another victory over "fist." After the game, it was announced that McDaniels broke hand. While no timeline has been announced, it's safe to assume that McDaniels will miss the Wolves' play-in game against the Lakers on Tuesday, and perhaps even Minnesota's entire potential playoff run. Yeesh ... and youch!
1. Rudy Gobert sent home after "punching" teammate
If you had this on your Game 82 bingo card, your prize is in the mail. In the second quarter of a must-win game against the New Orleans Pelicans, Minnesota Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert threw what looked like a punch (maybe a pointed jab? a stern shove?) into the chest of teammate Kyle Anderson. The other Wolves immediately separated the two, and Gobert was escorted to the locker room.
The Wolves later announced that Gobert would not return to the game, and that he was sent home for his actions. Minnesota president of basketball operations Tim Connelly made a statement after the game:
"We made the decision to send Rudy Gobert home after the incident in the second quarter. His behavior on the bench was unacceptable and we will continue handling the situation internally."
Details trickled in, including Anderson reportedly calling Gobert a bitch, and later saying he would "knock [Gobert's] ass out" during halftime in the locker room. Per reports, Gobert sent out a group text saying "We'll speak about it and move on. We're grown men."
Almost miraculously, the Wolves ended up winning the game to earn the No. 8 seed and give themselves two chances to make the playoffs. Should they beat a locked-in Lakers team in Los Angeles on Tuesday, so be it. If not, they'll host the winner of Wednesday's No. 9 Pelicans and No. 10 Thunder matchup on Friday. In the meantime, we'll wait to see what happens with Gobert and Anderson.