After another late-fourth quarter collapse for the Celtics and an improbable win by the Orlando Magic over Brooklyn, the Celtics have floundered their way into a tie for the third-worst record in the NBA.
We’ve covered what would happen if Boston finished third, fourth, fifth or sixth in the lottery before, but we didn’t account for the possibility they might end up tied with Orlando. Here’s how the rule works, according to Rufus On Fire of SB Nation back in 2013.
In the case of a tie between two teams, they average the ping pong balls between the two teams. Should the resulting division result in a remainder, a coin flip will determine who gets the extra ping pong ball. Series records don’t matter.
Doing the math, let’s break this down:
— If Boston and Orlando finish the season tied, they would get 156 ping pong balls for the third-place finish and 119 for the fourth. Added together, that makes 275. Those 275 would be divided equally between the Celtics and the Magic, and since that equals 137.5, a coin flip would determine who gets 138 ping pong balls and who gets 137
136. So if the Celtics finished tied with Orlando, they would have either a 13.8 or a 13.6 percent chance of winning the lottery, depending on the flip of the coin. That’s not as good as 15.6, but it’s a little better than 11.9.
— More importantly, this positioning ups Boston’s chances of getting into the top three (and thus getting a shot at Embiid, Parker or Wiggins). If the Magic and Celtics tie, one team will have a 42.2 percent chance at a top three pick, while the other will have a 42.4 percent shot. At fourth, Boston would have just a 37.8 percent chance to get a top-three pick.
— It’s interesting to note that Boston’s chances at a top-three pick wouldn’t go up THAT much if they possessed the third spot by themselves: Sole possession of the third-best odds would give the Celtics a 46.9 percent chance at a top-3 pick. Also (obviously), it would give Orlando just a 37.8 percent chance at a top-three pick, thus making it less likely that the Magic would knock Boston out of the lottery.
— It’s also important to remember that although Boston faces superior teams Friday (Charlotte) and Wednesday (Washington), the Cs also take on Cleveland and Philadelphia before the season is over. Don’t count on this quite yet.
That’s a lot of stats to tell you that Boston’s lottery odds essentially went up just under five percent tonight. Numbers don’t lie, and feelings do. But for some reason, these numbers — however seemingly insignificant — really do feel like they matter.
Follow Tom on Twitter: @Tom_NBA.