NEW YORK -- The NBA's two most storied franchises were big winners Tuesday night, as the Boston Celtics won the NBA draft lottery and the top overall pick, with the Los Angeles Lakers landing the second pick.
Less than 24 hours after outlasting the Washington Wizards in Game 7 to reach the Eastern Conference finals, the Celtics added to their incredible high when they and their fans got what they have waited for ever since they traded Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to the Brooklyn Nets for three first-round picks in 2013, including the right to swap picks this year with the Nets, the worst team in the NBA this season.
"It felt just like winning Game 7 last night," said Celtics co-owner Wyc Grousbeck, who represented Boston at the lottery. "There's a lot of good feelings around the Celtics right now. It's great to be a Celtics fan right now."
Boston, which also owns the Nets' first-round pick next year, became the first team to finish with the top record in a conference and pick first overall since the Lakers drafted James Worthy first in the 1982 draft.
Pierce, who retired at the end of the season, took to Twitter to acknowledge his role in the Celtics' big night.
And look what I leave behind for the Celts on my way out #1 pick😂👌🏾🙏🔥
— Paul Pierce (@paulpierce34) May 17, 2017
Moments before the lottery began and the picks were revealed, Magic Johnson looked noticeably nervous. The Lakers had perhaps the most to lose of any team in this year's lottery.
Had the Lakers, who had the third-best odds in the lottery, not landed in the top three, they would have had to surrender their first-round pick to the Philadelphia 76ers as part of a 2012 trade involving Steve Nash. If the Lakers had failed to pick in the top three, they also would have had to give up their 2019 first-round pick to Orlando for the Dwight Howard trade in 2012.
It's no wonder that Johnson was practically squirming in his chair until he celebrated with a fist pump and a smile when NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum announced that the Phoenix Suns, who had the second-best odds in the draft, slipped to fourth.
Philadelphia's Joel Embiid sat next to Johnson on the dais and joked to the Lakers' president of basketball operations prior to the lottery that he and the Sixers would get the Lakers' pick.
"[Tatum] said it wasn't us [at four]. I said, that's it, that is all I care about," Johnson said with a relieved laugh. "That's all I care about. I didn't know where we are going to land from there, but I was like, 'OK! I can breathe now.'
"When it happened, I said [to Embiid], 'You are the good luck charm, and I am carrying you with me.'"
Shortly after, Johnson hugged Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka and told him how happy he was to have landed the second pick for the third straight year after selecting D'Angelo Russell (2015) and Brandon Ingram (2016).
"The good thing is I have been a winner my whole life in everything I have been able to do, and [landing the second pick] is just a part of that," Johnson said when asked if his winning fortunes are why he was brought in to run the Lakers. "But the work starts now. You got to pick the right player at [No.] 2 and at 28. We have to make sure that free agents that we look at or trade possibilities that we look at are the right players that come into our organization and have the right attitude and mindset."
"You get a top-three pick, especially in this draft, this draft is a special draft because there are so many good players," Johnson said. "Not just at the top -- we are going to get a really good player at 28 too. But it is good for Rob and I to kick it off and also for our players and our fans because you don't understand what's been going on in L.A.
"They have been like, 'Oh my God, we won five in a row [late in the season to slip to the third-best odds in the lottery],' and everybody thought we were crazy, right? So now the fans back home can breathe a little easier right now. But at the same time, we are heading in the right direction."
Embiid's Sixers will pick third, marking the fourth straight year that Philadelphia has had a top-three pick.
"I'm excited," said Embiid, Philadelphia's top pick in the 2014 draft. "We jumped up one more spot. I wish we would have gotten the No. 1 pick, but we trust the process, and it's going to be exciting to see what we're going for."
The Suns slipped to fourth overall with the Sacramento Kings, Orlando Magic, Minnesota Timberwolves, New York Knicks, Dallas Mavericks, Kings (via New Orleans), Charlotte Hornets, Detroit Pistons, Denver Nuggets and Miami Heat following in the lottery order.
At the top are the Celtics and Lakers. Barring a trade, this is the first time the two franchises have owned the top two spots in the same draft.
Twenty years after Boston had the best odds to land the top pick, only to see the San Antonio Spurs win the Tim Duncan sweepstakes, the Celtics are riding high.
"It is just crazy. The energy in the building last night was incredible. I have been here 15 years, two Finals, and it was as good as any atmosphere we have ever heard in there," Grousbeck said. "Sending Washington home meant a lot. They're a good team. ... Then you got to muster up and squeeze in the lottery and somehow win that, and now we got LeBron [James] coming in tomorrow.
"It's a crazy time."