Boston’s 101-96 win over Miami on Wednesday night was extremely fun, and if you didn’t enjoy it, you are a heartless robot. The Garden was as energetic as it’s been all season, Rajon Rondo was diming, the 3-pointers were falling and the Celtics’ biggest rival of the past three years left disappointed.
But, as with every other win this season, the looming question remains: What if that win cost the Celtics a shot at a star in the 2014 draft class? So, once again, let’s break down what the win over the Heat did to Boston’s lottery chances.
First, the raw numbers. Each team’s lottery hopes rest on 1,000 ping pong balls. The number one team gets 250, giving them a 25 percent chance at the number one pick and a 64.3 percent shot at a top-3 pick.
Before Wednesday’s game, the Celtics had the fourth-worst record in the NBA, but they were tied in the wins column with the Jazz and the Lakers, who both lost on Wednesday. Fourth still wasn’t ideal for the Celtics — the fourth-worst team in the NBA gets just a 38 percent shot at the lottery — but at fourth, Boston would have an 82.8 percent chance of getting a top-5 pick. That’s important — a top-5 pick would guarantee the Celtics a shot at one of Wiggins, Parker, Embiid, Exum or Randle.
At sixth, the Celtics’ chances slip considerably. For starters, the Celtics can’t get the fourth or the fifth pick, meaning the only way Boston gets a top-5 pick is if it’s in the top three. The Celtics’ chances of getting a top-3 pick with the sixth-worst record? A measly 22 percent. The Celtics actually would have a better chance at slipping to the 8th pick (23.2 percent) than securing a lottery selection, while they would have a 59.9 percent chance of staying right where they are.
It may seem melodramatic to assign so much importance to one win, especially with 15 games remaining. A lot can happen in 15 games, especially since most (with the exception two match-ups with the Sixers) are likely losses. But every win matters doubly from now until the end of the season, and as annoying as it may be to never know exactly what to hope for, it’s going to be a reality until April 16.
Boston isn’t going to have the worst record in the NBA — the Sixers and Bucks have seen to that. But getting back to fourth-worst would do wonders for Boston’s lottery odds. At sixth, Celtics fans — statistically — will likely be staring at a disappointing draft position after an equally disappointing season.
Follow Tom on Twitter: @Tom_NBA.