The Boston Celtics had two reasons to celebrate the Orlando Magic's win over the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday night. Not only did it aid Boston in moving into a tie with Orlando for the third-worst record in basketball, but it might have helped ensure that Brooklyn won't climb any further in the league standings before season's end.
If the regular season ended today, the Celtics and Magic would split the probability between the third and fourth positions, leaving each team a roughly 42.5 percent chance at a top 3 pick (and a 13.7 percent chance at the top overall selection). If there's separation between the two teams before the end of the season, the difference between the two spots is noticeable. A sole third-place finish ups the chances of a top 3 pick to 46.9 percent and of the No. 1 pick to 15.6 percent (while the fourth-place finisher falls to 37.8 percent for top 3 and 11.9 percent for No. 1).
Just keep in mind that, unlike playoff position, lottery ties see teams split the available number of ping-pong ball combinations (with any odd-number leftovers determined via coin flip, leaving slight differences in the two teams' probabilities).
What's more, the Celtics are set to receive Brooklyn's first-round pick, which is just about locked into the 18th spot at this point after Wednesday's loss.
With a nod to our friends at Tankathon, here's the latest look at the updated lottery standings:
And a look at the remaining schedules for Boston, Orlando, and Utah:
• BOSTON: CHA, @CLE, @PHI, WAS
• ORLANDO: WAS, @BKN, @CHI, IND
• UTAH: POR, @DEN, LAL, @MIN
The question with Orlando is if any of the playoff-bound opponents will sit their starters, opening the gate to potentially steal more victories. The final week of the season won't lack for drama, even for teams whose seasons will end on Wednesday.
[Update: Hat tip to the eagle-eyed commenters who noted the Nets pick is 18th because whoever missed the playoffs from the Western Conference will drop to the lottery despite a better record than the Nets.]