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Celtics get No. 1 pick, Lakers will select No. 2 in NBA Draft Lottery

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The Boston Celtics have looked like the team calling “we got next” after the Cleveland Cavaliers — well, really LeBron James — has dominated the Eastern Conference for years.

That looks a lot better after they drew the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft Lottery. The Los Angeles Lakers will pick second and the Philadelphia 76ers third (a swap with Sacramento, who moved up from eighth to third, but the Sixers had rights to exchange picks so Philly is third and the Kings will pick fifth).

This is a monster win for the Celtics — they are the No. 1 seed in the East, they are in the Eastern Conference Finals this season, and they have the No. 1 pick.

“It’s a good time to be a Celtics fan,” said Wyc Grousbeck, co-owner of the Celtics, on the ESPN broadcast. “I wish the draft were today and we could get a little help for tomorrow night (Game 1 of the Conference Finals) but this is a great night.”

With Boston landing the No. 1 pick (this is actually the Brooklyn pick, but Boston had the right to swap as part of the Kevin Garnett deal), the next question is will GM Danny Ainge use it to add to the team’s impressive depth, or might he trade this pick in a package for an established star (such as Paul George or Jimmy Butler)? Ainge has been incredibly patient so far trying to land stars (he did get Al Horford and Isaiah Thomas developed before their eyes), does he think his team is one piece away from challenging LeBron James and the Cavaliers now, or does he want to wait for that powerhouse to wilt a little. Also, if the Celtics draft a top point guard such as Markelle Fultz or Lonzo Ball, what does that mean for the future of Isaiah Thomas (who is a free agent in the summer of 2018)? Whatever Ainge is thinking, don’t expect him to tip his hand before draft night.

The other big winner was the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers get to keep their pick in this draft (this is the third straight year they’ve had the lottery balls bounce their way and the pick owed Philly has stayed theirs), and that’s a double blessing. They not only get to select No. 2 now — they are reportedly high on Los Angeles are native Lonzo Ball and this makes it highly likely they can land him — they also keep their 2019 first round pick which would have gone to Orlando. (Next year’s Lakers first round pick unconditionally goes to the Sixers, and they owe the Magic two second rounders but not a first). Magic Johnson gets to make a big splash.

The biggest loser was the Orlando Magic. Not only did they slide a spot to sixth, they do not get that 2019 Lakers first rounder.

Here is the draft order (with a break at the end of the lottery.

1. Boston (swap with Brooklyn)
2. L.A. Lakers
3. Philadelphia (swap with Sacramento)
4. Phoenix
5. Sacramento (swap with Philadelphia)
6. Orlando
7. Minnesota
8. New York
9. Dallas
10. Sacramento (via New Orleans)
11. Charlotte
12. Detroit
13. Denver
14. Miami
———–
15. Portland
16. Chicago
17. Milwaukee
18. Indiana
19. Atlanta
20. Portland (via Memphis, via Denver and Cleveland)
21. Oklahoma City
22. Brooklyn (via Washington)
23. Toronto (via LA Clippers and Milwaukee)
24. Utah
25. Orlando (via Toronto)
26. Portland (via Cleveland)
27. Brooklyn (swap with Boston)
28. L.A. Lakers (via Houston)
29. San Antonio
30. Utah (via Golden State)

As expected, Wesley Matthews says he will pick up $18.6 million option with Mavericks

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Wesley Matthews still has value as an NBA player.

However, he doesn’t have $18.6 million in value on the open market right now — especially in what will be a tight market this summer — so he’s going to take the cash on the table. Matthews is going to opt into the $18.6 million in the final year of his contract (the final season of a four-year, $70 million deal), he told Dwain Price of the Mavericks’ official website.

He said he will pick up that option and return and play next season with the Mavs.

“Obviously that’s something that hasn’t been on my mind,” Matthews said. “That’s what you have an agent for and agencies for.

“Like I said, I don’t plan on being anywhere else. And now it’s just focusing on getting back healthy, which I am now, and getting on this court.”

Matthews missed the final 16 games of last season with a stress fracture in his right fibula, and played in just 63 games total. He has been cleared to resume basketball activities now and is back on his workout routine.

Matthews biggest value has been on the defensive end, where he has been good on the wing for Dallas. Offensively, he averaged 12.7 points per game last season, shooting an improved 38.1 percent from three and with a true shooting percentage right around the league average at 54.1. He’s been solid in Dallas, a glue guy and a veteran example for young players such as Dennis Smith Jr., although they paid him that contract to be more than just solid.

Matthews name came up in trade rumors last deadline, and now that he has an expiring deal you can expect his name to come up again this summer and into next season (if he’s not moved). He’s an interesting trade piece who could help a lot of playoff-bound teams, something the Mavericks are not likely to be.

Draymond Green is texting Joel Embiid advice during playoffs

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In Game 1 of their series, the Philadelphia 76ers — without Joel Embiid — blew the doors off the Miami Heat, winning by 27. It’s the kind of game that can lead a young team to overconfidence.

That’s when Draymond Green texted Joel Embiid some words of advice, reports Jessica Camerato of NBC Sports Philadelphia.

“Draymond texted me after the first game when we blew Miami out,” Embiid recalled Monday. “He basically told me that it’s not going to be the same in Game 2. They came back and they won that game.”

Green was right, but it’s one of the harder things for young players to understand, how much the ground can shift game-to-game in the playoffs. For the first four games especially, matchups and strategies will change night-to-night, and around Game 5 that tends to settle down and become more about execution (and talent).

For the Sixers, everything in their series changed with the return of Joel Embiid. Unhappily wearing a mask, Embiid’s defensive presence in the paint slows the Heat attack and allows things like Philly’s Game 4 comeback win on the road. Now Embiid’s about to make his home playoff debut in Game 5 Tuesday night, with a chance to close out the series.

“The atmosphere was amazing, it was insane,” Embiid said of the home crowd in Games 1 and 2. “After going to Miami, I felt like nothing compared to it. … We’ve been almost perfect [at home] since the beginning of the year. It just shows you how much we need them. Especially myself, I play better in that type of environment. I need the fans to get into it and push me. That makes me elevate my game.”

Beyond the first round, in an East where the expected best teams — Toronto and Cleveland — have looked vulnerable, the door is open.

“A lot of people say that we have a bright future, but I think our time is now,” Embiid said. “We have a pretty good chance. We have a special team, a lot of great guys. I don’t think we need anybody else. We’ve just got to work with what we have, and we have a special team. I feel like we have a pretty good chance to go far.

Jazz shut off Thunder in feisty Game 4 win

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Jae Crowder threw an ejection-drawing elbow, and teammate Donovan Mitchell couldn’t contain his grin as he pulled Crowder from the scuffle.

Steven Adams took the elbow in the face, and he didn’t even flinch.

Both the Jazz and Thunder showed their competitiveness in Utah’s chippy 113-96 Game 4 win Monday. The difference: The Jazz delivered the blow. Oklahoma City took it.

Utah has won three straight to take a 3-1 lead in the first-round series. Teams without home-court advantage up 3-1 in a best-of-seven series have won it 89% of the time. Still, those leading teams lose Game 5 on the road 74% of the time. Game 5 of this series is Wednesday in Oklahoma City.

In other words: The Jazz have seized control of the series. They probably won’t close it out in Game 5 – though the way they’re playing, the certainly could.

Mitchell scored 33 points tonight, the first 30-point playoff game by a rookie since Brandon Jennings in 2010 (34 points). Mitchell has already scored 110 points this postseason, the most by a rookie since Harrison Barnes in 2013 (193 points). With Utah increasingly likely to advance, Mitchell has a chance to catch Dwyane Wade (234 points in 2004).

“He’s playing amazing,” Ricky Rubio said of Mitchell. “He doesn’t seem a rookie at all.”

Rubio, the star of Game 3, happily deferred to Mitchell tonight. Russell Westbrook‘s guarantee to shut down Rubio meant little, as Rubio set the tone as a passer. His eight assists don’t do him justice, as he made key passes that led to fouls drawn and other advantage situations for his teammates.

“We play as a team,” Rubio said.

Westbrook, on the other hand, looked out of control. He committed four first-half fouls, and though calls were questions, he also committed five turnovers and shot just 7-for-18. The question isn’t whether Westbrook was reckless. He was. The only debate is just how reckless.

Westbrook’s fervor hardly stood out. In addition to Crowder’s ejection, the game featured six other technical fouls – on Paul George, Quin Snyder, Steven Adams, Joe Ingles, Rudy Gobert and Raymond Felton. And there was even more trash-talking and physicality than whistled.

There just wasn’t nearly enough sustained production from the Thunder.

George (32 points on 9-of-21 shooting with six turnovers) had moments but was far too sloppy. Oklahoma City’s big three shot dreadfully from beyond the arc – Carmelo Anthony (0-for-6), Westbrook (0-for-3) and George (2-for-9).

Utah led by double digits the final 23 minutes. Joe Ingles made as many 3-pointers (5-for-11) as the Thunder combined (5-for-26).

Ingles is an excellent shooter, but the Jazz’s offense hummed and got him open looks. His outside shots are a bellwether – of a Utah team cruising.

Mitt Romney taunts Russell Westbrook after fourth foul

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It’s been a glorious night for Utah Jazz fans.

In Game 4 the Jazz have taken care of the big three of the Thunder in what has been a very physical, chippy game (Jae Crowder even got ejected). Between their team going on big runs and the physical play of the game, the Utah crowd — one already with a reputation for verbal hostility toward opponents — has savored every second of it.

That includes former Massachusetts Governor, presidential candidate, and current Utah Senate candidate Mitt Romney, who reminded Russell Westbrook exactly how many fouls he picked up.

Twitter – which has its own reputation for verbal hostility — was not kind to Romney after this. Of course, he earned it with that outfit.