Celtics-Lakers preview: An emotional matchup

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Celtics-Lakers preview: An emotional matchup

LOS ANGELES Regardless of the record, NBA fans have come to expect a good show when the Celtics and Lakers get together. So it was a bit stunning, to say the least, to see how easily Boston handled the Lakers just a couple weeks ago to the tune of 116-95.

And the sad part? The game wasn't even that close.

Fast forward to tonight's game, one in which the Celtics are actually better than they were when these two met while the Lakers are still trying to establish an identity.

But the challenge of sweeping the Lakers, always daunting, is even more difficult now.

For starters, the Celtics are coming off a loss at Denver Tuesday night while the Lakers were home, resting and preparing for tonight's game which will be their first following the all-star break.

And then there's the recent death of Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss, the kind of real-life setback that could very well serve as a catalyst in their efforts to rally their way into the playoffs.

"It's a lot of stuff to handle," said Celtics head coach Doc Rivers. "And we're going to be right in the firestorm."

After offering his condolences to the Buss family, C's Kevin Garnett acknowledged that the environment for tonight's game will make an already challenging night even tougher in many ways.

"It should be a lot of emotion in the building," Garnett said. "On top of the most anticipated rival. Nothing more, nothing less than that. Both teams are trying to obviously get on some type of roll, like into a rhythm themselves, period."

How Boston handles all of the off-the-court distractions will indeed play a role in whether the Celtics can brush off Tuesday's loss at Denver and start up another winning streak.

Here are some other factors that may come into play tonight.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Kobe Bryant is going to score a ton of points regardless of what the Celtics do defensively. Limiting the four starters around him from having a big game will be crucial. It certainly was when these two met earlier. Bryant had a game-high 27 points, but he was the only Lakers starter to score in double figures.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Paul Pierce vs Metta World Peace. This was a matchup that Pierce dominated in their first meeting on Feb. 7. But with the Celtics coming off a game at Denver on Tuesday, there's no telling how much did last night's loss took out of Pierce.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Courtney Lee remains a wild card of sorts for the Celtics. His scoring and defense helped keep the C's in Tuesday's loss to Denver. And his overall game was big in Boston's win over the Lakers earlier this month. He had 15 points, five rebounds, three assists and a blocked shot.

STAT TO TRACK: Boston has to feel better about its chances of winning the rebounding war with Pau Gasol (plantar fascia) sidelined with an injury that's expected to keep him out until sometime in March. The Celtics saw first-hand how well -- or woeful depending on who you root for -- the Lakers are without Gasol. In the first meeting, Gasol was out with the foot injury. It is not a coincidence that Boston out-rebounded the Lakers 48-43.

Celtics begin working out draft prospects Wednesday

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Celtics begin working out draft prospects Wednesday

BOSTON – The Celtics’ practice facility will become a basketball port-of-call in the coming weeks as some of the best young talent passes through, all with the goal of doing their best to impress the Celtics’ brass.

Austin Ainge, the Celtics’ director of player personnel, said Boston will begin working out players on Wednesday with the first group consisting of six players - two guards, two forwards and two big men.
 
“We’ll put them through a lot of different situations,” Ainge, who declined to identify the six players working out on Wednesday, told CSNNE.com. “We’ll see how bigs are at guarding guards, and guards defending bigger players, some of the roles they would have to play if they were Celtics…We’ll get a good look at what they can do in a lot of different scenarios.”
 
With eight draft picks [three in the first round and five in the second], the list of players making the rounds will likely be longer than usual.
 
Ainge said he anticipated the Celtics will work out 80-100 players, which is slightly more than they usually do.
 
“With trades, you just never really know,” Ainge said. “So we try to work out players all the way through 60.”
 
Speaking of trades, Ainge anticipates the Celtics will be on the phone more than past years because they have so many picks and, by all indications, do not plan to use them all.
 
If Boston can’t package some of their picks to acquire more talent, the Celtics will look even closer than usual at drafting players from overseas with the intent that they don’t join Boston’s roster for a couple of years.
 
Because Boston has so many picks, you would think they would be in position to be more selective than past years when it came to who they brought in for workouts.
 
“With our picks, it is in a player’s best interest to work out for us,” Ainge acknowledged. “But for us, we want to see as many players as possible so that we can draft the best fit, the best player that’s available.”
 
The draft lottery later on May 17 will determine exactly where the Celtics will be selecting with the pick they acquired as part of the Kevin Garnett-Paul Pierce trade with Brooklyn in 2013.
 
Boston acquired three picks as part of the trade. They used the first one to draft James Young two years ago.
 
This past season, Brooklyn (21-61) finished with the third-worst record, which gives Boston a 15.6 percent chance that the Nets pick it receives will be the No. 1 overall selection. 
 
If Boston lands one of the top-two picks, a workout with LSU’s Ben Simmons and Duke’s Brandon Ingram – the consensus top-two players in this year’s draft – is likely. And if the Celtics wind up with the No. 2 pick, they might work out Dragan Bender who is the top overseas prospect in this year’s draft.
 
In addition to the Brooklyn pick, which will be no worse than the sixth overall selection, Boston has another pair of first-round picks (16th and 23rd overall), along with five second-round picks (31st, 35th, 45th, 51st and 58th), at their disposal.

 

History of third-best odds in NBA draft lottery

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History of third-best odds in NBA draft lottery

The NBA draft lottery is two weeks away, which means only two more weeks of hitting the “sim lottery” button on our computers while we should be doing work.

Since the weighted lottery system was modified before 1994 giving the team with the worst record a 25-percent chance at the No. 1 pick, the worst team has ended up with the No. 1 pick just three times, most recently the 2015 lottery to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The 25-percent chance, in short, means that out of 1,000 ping pong ball combinations, the worst team going into the lottery has 250 of those combinations. If one of those 250 combinations is pulled, the No. 1 pick goes to that team.

The number of combinations drops per team from worst team in lottery down to the best at No. 14. Since 2005, there are 16 playoff teams and 14 lottery teams. Where the lottery teams rank in record determines how many chances they have at a winning combination. The No. 14 team in the lottery has five chances.

The Boston Celtics go into the lottery holding the Brooklyn Nets’ pick. The Nets finished with the third-worst record this season, giving them 156 combinations, or a 15.6-percent chance at the No. 1 pick.

Combinations are pulled for the top three picks. After that, teams fall into place based on record.

The Celtics have a 46.9-percent chance at landing a Top 3 pick. Picks 1-3 break down virtually equal, at 15.6-percent for the No. 1 seed, 15.6-percent for the No. 2 seed, and 14.7-percent for the No. 3 seed.

Because three teams could leapfrog them (remember, combinations are chosen for just the top three picks), they could fall to as low as the No. 6 seed, but no further. Boston’s chances to land the No. 4 or No. 5 seed actually increase from the first three picks, as they have a 22.6-percent chance at No. 4 and a 26.5-percent chance at No. 5. A No. 6 seed would be extremely unlucky, as there’s just a 4-percent chance at that.

So the question you want to know: How many No. 3 seeds have ended up with the top pick? Since 1994, it’s happened five times, though based on teams with the same record that season, ping pong ball combinations varied. (Example: in 1994, the Bucks were tied with two other teams for the second-worst record, giving them 163 combinations. I included them as one of the five “No. 3 seeds” previously mentioned even though technically they weren’t - it’s close enough.)

The No. 3 seed has never gotten the second pick. It’s gotten the third pick three times, the fourth pick four times, the fifth pick nine times, and the sixth pick once.

Since 2005, the No. 3 lottery team has won the lottery twice (2009, 2013). Let’s take a look at every third-seeded lottery team since then, where there they ended up picking, and who ended up going third in that draft.

Click here for the complete breakdown of each lottery since 2005.