Celtics find ways to win with new pieces

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Celtics find ways to win with new pieces

By A.Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

MILWAUKEE Maybe the Boston Celtics have some of that tiger blood Charlie Sheen has been talking about in them, because all they seem to do these days is just keep on winning.

Boston (46-15) rallied for an 89-83 win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday night which extended its winning streak to five.

Beating the Bucks (23-38) is in itself nothing to be overly boastful about.

However, injuries limited the Celtics to having just nine players in uniform on Sunday.

And of those nine player, four -- Nenad Krstic, Jeff Green, Troy Murphy and Sasha Pavlovic -- have been with the team less than two weeks.

While there's no need for players to sport, 'Hello, my name is . . . ' labels, it's clear this group has a long way to go before they truly know how to play well with another.

In the meantime, all they can do is keep learning how to find different ways to win games.

"It's been tough," admitted coach Doc Rivers.

Maybe so, but it certainly hasn't reflected in the Celtics maintaining the best record in the Eastern Conference.

"Like I told you before, it really starts with our core group," said Paul Pierce, who led all Celtics with 23 points. "Until we can find a way to get the other guys adjusted to the system, and how we do things . . . it's taking some time. You could see it in lulls in the offense."

Pierce added, "But at the end of the day, we're finding a way to win."

And because of the many changes, the Celtics are getting it done in ways that should make them an even more dangerous team in the playoffs.

Fans are so used to seeing Pierce or Ray Allen come up with a big shot down the stretch.

Well now you have to worry about guys like Jeff Green, who had 11 points off the bench . . . including a 3-pointer with 4:40 to play that gave the Celtics an 82-77 lead.

"Every time I see Jeff Green I'm just more impressed, more impressed," said Kevin Garnett, who had 14 points and 11 rebounds for his 23rd double-double this season. "He's just helping so much right now. We need the fact that he can play multiple positions and he knows the 3, 4 and 5 positions. He picked it up so fast. Must be that Georgetown education. It's great for us now, because we are undermanned. He's just been big for us."

Prior to Green's big 3-pointer, Sasha Pavlovic saw his first action with the C's.

In addition to playing solid defense, Pavlovic also nailed a 3-pointer - his lone made basket of the game - that gave the Celtics a seven-point lead, their largest of the night.

Of course, Krstic continues to play well with the starting unit.

Krstic finished with 17 points, his highest point total since being traded to the Celtics on Feb. 24, and his highest scoring game since he had a season-high 18 in a 99-90 loss at Chicago on Dec. 6 when he played for the Thunder.

Boston's other newcomer, Troy Murphy, chipped in with four rebounds and two assists.

All involved understand that the Celtics are a work in progress.

But that's no excuse for anything less than success.

And like Sheen, the Celtics are all about . . . winning.

"We're definitely not where we want to be, but we're grinding it out," Pierce said. "Any way we can get the win, we'll take it. We're just finding ways to win."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached atsblakely@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

Draper: Better financial option for Durant to stay in OKC one more year

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Draper: Better financial option for Durant to stay in OKC one more year

A. Sherrod Blakely and Kyle Draper discuss the chances the Boston Celtics land Kevin Durant, Jimmy Butler or DeMarcus Cousins.

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.