Celtics get assist from Suns in NBA Lottery race

Two straight wins by Phoenix have pushed Brooklyn into the No. 3 spot.

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge might have more up his sleeve.
Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge smiles as he listens to a reporter’s question. –AP

The Celtics’ odds of earning the third seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race took a serious hit after falling to the Hawks on Saturday night, but the franchise still got some good news pertaining to their 2016 stash of draft picks.

The Suns’ 121-100 victory over the Pelicans Saturday evening improved their win total to 22 on the season. That development is important from Boston’s perspective since it pushed the Brooklyn Nets (21-58) to the No. 3 spot in the overall lottery standings. If those spots hold with just four days remaining in the regular season, Boston’s odds of landing a top pick via Brooklyn’s unprotected first-round selection jump by a few percentage points.

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With the third-worst overall record in the NBA (and third-best lottery odds), Brooklyn will give the Celtics a 46.9 percent chance at landing a top-3 pick and 15.6 percent shot at snagging the top overall choice on lottery night. Those odds are significantly better than the No. 4 spot (37.8 percent chance at top-3 pick, 11.9 percent chance at No. 1) that Brooklyn previously held before the Suns’ put together back-to-back wins.

The Nets have three games remaining in the regular season, but have lost seven straight games since shutting down top starters Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young for the year. Brooklyn ends its season with three games against superior teams (@ IND, vs. WAS, vs. TOR), making it highly unlikely it will be able to win one more game to match the Suns in the lottery standings.

The Suns host the Kings and Clippers to close out their season. Sacramento will be without star center DeMarcus Cousins (rest) for that contest, giving Phoenix one more good shot at a victory and potentially the Nets a bigger cushion for the No. 3 spot.

While the Celtics will be more focused in on their own playoff seeding positioning in the last week of the season, this lottery race continues to bear watching with its potential implications on Boston’s offseason.

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