Celtics-Nuggets review: Pierce makes mark in win

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Celtics-Nuggets review: Pierce makes mark in win

BOSTON Paul Pierce continues to be the Boston Celtics' Mr. Do-Everything, tallying his second triple-double of the season in leading the Celtics past Denver in a 118-114 triple overtime thriller.

Pierce finished with 27 points, 14 rebounds and 14 assists for the Celtics (27-23) who moved four games above .500 for the first time this season, and have now won a season-high seven straight games.

"This was a great game to be a part of," Pierce said. "This is the type of win that can give us confidence moving forward."

Especially considering it was Boston's sixth straight game with at least five double-digit scorers.

And while a number of players took center stage at different points in the game for Boston, there was no mistaking the steady play of Pierce who seemed to find a way to put his imprint on the game in a variety of ways.

His play continues what has been a trend in this post-Rajon Rondo run the C's are on, a run that has in large part been fueled by the play of Pierce.

Pierce hit a number of big shots for the C's on Sunday, but none as big as the 3-pointer with 5.2 seconds to play in the second overtime that tied the game at 107.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers said the original play was Pierce coming off a pick-and-roll, and he could get a 3-pointer off, take it.

"Then it was broken and Paul just made a play," Rivers said. "I mean, that's what great players do. I would love to tell you I had something to do with it. I was sitting just like the fans praying, 'Please, Lord, Paul make a shot.'"

Pierce's clutch shot making was among the many keys in arguably the Celtics' most hard-earned wins of the season. Here are some other keys identified prior to the game, and how those keys played out.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: The Nuggets are all about getting buckets, all the time. For the season, they have averaged 104.8 points per game which ranks third in the NBA. During their nine-game winning streak, they lead the league in scoring with 114.6 points per game. Meanwhile, the C's counter with a scoring defense (93.8) that ranks 6th overall this season, and is 4th in the league (89.7) during the Celtic's six-game winning streak.

WHAT WE SAW: The triple overtime affair certainly skewed the scoring numbers for both teams. But considering the Nuggets needed three overtime periods to reach their scoring average during the winning streak that is no longer, it speaks to how well the Celtics defense played against one of the most prolific offenses in the NBA.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Paul Pierce vs. Kenneth Faried: Pierce has been playing some of his best basketball of the season lately, but the 6-foot-8 Faried presents a different and in many ways, tougher challenge for the Captain. Faried is a high-energy, always-on-the-move player with great rebounding instincts evident by his 9.7 rebounds per game this season. Keeping him off the boards should be an even bigger priority for Pierce than doing what he does best, which is score.

WHAT WE SAW: Pierce had another big game for the Celtics with his second triple-double of the season with 27 points, 14 rebounds and 14 assists. As for Faried, he had 14 points and 12 rebounds for Denver, but committed a huge gaffe by committing a technical foul after Ty Lawson gave the Nuggets their first lead, 90-89, with 1:43 to play in the fourth quarter. Jason Terry made the game-tying free throw moments later.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Boston's second unit has been in attack mode of late, but Denver's JaVale McGee might make the C's think otherwise. He's averaging 10.1 points off the Nuggets bench, in addition to 2.02 blocked shots per game which doesn't factor in the shots his presence around the paint can alter. His four blocked shots at Cleveland on Saturday was the seventh time this season he has had at least four in a game. That's tops among all NBA reserves this season.

WHAT WE SAW: McGee was a monster on the boards with 16, but he was out of position far too often in the third overtime which allowed Kevin Garnett to have wide open to lightly-contested shots that paved the way for Boston's victory.

STAT TO TRACK: Limiting Denver's offensive rebounds will be an across-the-board challenge for Boston. The Nuggets average an NBA-best 13.6 offensive rebounds per game. Boston has been among the better defensive rebounding teams of late, but during their six-game winning streak they are still giving up 13.2 offensive rebounds per game.

WHAT WE SAW: The Nuggets stayed true to form, grabbing 15 offensive boards which led to 23 second-chance points. However, Denver only grabbed two offensive boards in the three overtime periods that resulted in just three points.

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.