Kelly Olynyk historically spectacular in Celtics’ Game 7 win over Wizards

3 Comments

In his first three NBA seasons, Kelly Olynyk scored 20 playoff points.

In the Celtics’ Game 7 win over the Wizards last night, he scored 26 points.

The fourth-year Boston forward came off the bench for a career game when his team needed it most. Even if they lose to the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference finals, the Celtics have clinched a satisfying season by advancing this far – especially in the greater context. Boston is the NBA’s youngest conference finalist and possesses the Nets’ first-round pick, which will be slotted in tonight’s lottery. The Celtics’ future is bright.

And thanks in part to Olynyk, their present will avoid major handwringing.

“Kelly was MVP tonight,” Isaiah Thomas said. “He did it all.”

Olynyk shot 8-for-8 on 2-pointers, using the threat of his 3-pointer to drive. He also kept Washington’s defense honest by shooting 2-for-6 from beyond the arc.

Olynyk’s 26 points were the most by a reserve in a Game 7 since Leandro Barbosa scored 26 for the Suns against the Lakers in 2006. Here are the top scoring Game 7s by reserves since 1984, when the NBA adopted a 16-team playoff:

image

Only Eddie Johnson (34 points for the Seattle SuperSonics against the Suns in 1993) and Sedale Threatt (28 points for the 76ers against the Bucks in 1986) scored more off the bench in a Game 7 in this era. But those performances came in losses. Olynyk aided a win.

His 26 points were also third among reserves in the 2017 postseason. Only Nene (28 points in Rockets-Thunder Game 4) and Joe Johnson (28 points in Jazz-Clippers Game 4) topped Olynyk:

image

Not a bad impression to leave in a high-pressure situation entering free agency.

Magic Johnson, Joel Embiid, Walt Frazier among on-stage lottery representatives

AP Photo/Nick Ut
3 Comments

The Lakers have so much riding on tomorrow’s lottery. If they land a top-three pick, they keep it. Fall out of the top three, their first-rounder goes to the 76ers – and their 2019 first-rounder goes to the Magic. The odds are slightly against the Lakers, but it’s close to a coin flip.

Who better to ride out the high-stakes drama than the ever-smooth Magic Johnson?

The Lakers president is among the on-stage representatives. The full list released by the NBA:

  • Boston – Wyc Grousbeck
  • Charlotte – Rich Cho
  • Dallas – Michael Finley
  • Denver – Gary Harris
  • Detroit – Jeff Bower
  • Lakers – Magic Johnson
  • Miami – Alonzo Mourning
  • Minnesota – Andrew Wiggins
  • New Orleans – Alvin Gentry
  • New York – Walt Frazier
  • Orlando – Frank Vogel
  • Philadelphia – Joel Embiid
  • Phoenix – Devin Booker
  • Sacramento – Dave Joerger

It’s all a little silly. None of these people have any control over the lottery, which occurs beforehand backstage anyway.

But it’s always fun to watch them squirm and celebrate as the results are announced.

2017 NBA draft lottery odds, visualized

David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images
5 Comments

The Celtics are the most likely team to land the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NBA draft.

They’re also more likely to select fourth.

The NBA will hold its annual lottery tomorrow, a process for assigning the top three picks in the upcoming draft. Non-playoff teams are assigned four-number combinations, the number of combinations weighted inversely by standings. Then, four of 14 ping-pong balls are randomly drawn. Whichever team has its combination drawn is assigned the first pick. The process is repeated for picks two and three, and every other team is then slotted after in reverse order of record.

But just how likely is each team to land each pick? The calculations are complicated by a few trades:

  • Celtics swap first-round picks with Nets
  • 76ers receive Lakers’ first-round pick if it falls outside top three
  • 76ers can swap first-round picks with Kings
  • Kings receive Pelicans’ first-round pick if it falls outside top three
  • Bulls receive Kings’ first-round pick if it falls outside top 10

Thankfully, a couple people smarter than me – Celtics assistant general manager Mike Zarren and director of basketball analytics David Sparks – determined the actual odds. I turned those into these hopefully handy charts.

Only picks that a team could possibly get are displayed. If a team has a “0.0%” chance listed for a certain pick, it means landing the pick is possible but the odds are less than 0.05% and rounded down.

Boston Celtics

image

Phoenix Suns

image

Los Angeles Lakers

image

Philadelphia 76ers

image

Orlando Magic

image

Minnesota Timberwolves

image

New York Knicks

image

Sacramento Kings

image

Dallas Mavericks

image

New Orleans Pelicans

image

Charlotte Hornets

image
Detroit Pistons

image

Denver Nuggets

image

Miami Heat

image

Chicago Bulls

image

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has now eliminated every other Western Conference team in playoffs

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
2 Comments

Spurs-Rockets looked familiar (except in all the ways it wasn’t): Gregg Popovich beating Mike D’Antoni.

Popovich is 20-6 in games and 5-0 in series against D’Antoni. The San Antonio coach just has a way of stifling D’Antoni’s up-tempo spread offense when it matters most.

But this Popovich-D’Antoni matchup was different in one key way: D’Antoni coached the Rockets, not the Suns.

In fact, this was the first time Popovich ever faced Houston in a playoff series – and that allowed him to claim a trivial and impressive honor.

Jordan Howenstine of Spurs PR:

https://twitter.com/AirlessJordan/status/862858569112313856

This speaks to Popovich’s:

  • Excellence (only one other coach – the Heat’s Erik Spoelstra – has won 14 total playoff series at all)
  • Longevity (beating the Timberwolves back when they were playoff regulars and waiting for the Warriors to become playoff mainstays)
  • Luck (catching New Orleans in one of its seven playoff series)

Here’s Popovich’s playoff history against every Western Conference franchise:

Dallas Mavericks

2001 won second round, 4-1

2003 won conference finals, 4-2

2006 lost second round, 4-3

2009 lost first round, 4-1

2010 won first round, 4-2

2014 won first round, 4-3

Denver Nuggets

2005 won first round, 4-1

2007 won first round, 4-1

Golden State Warriors

2013 won second round, 4-2

Houston Rockets

2017 won second round, 4-2

Los Angeles Clippers

2012 won second round, 4-0

2015 lost first round, 4-3

Los Angeles Lakers

1999 won second round, 4-0

2001 lost conference finals, 4-0

2002 lost second round, 4-1

2003 won second round, 4-2

2004 lost second round, 4-2

2008 lost conference finals, 4-1

2013 won first round, 4-0

Memphis Grizzlies

2004 won first round, 4-0

2011 lost first round, 4-2

2013 won conference finals, 4-0

2016 won first round, 4-0

2017 won first round, 4-2

Minnesota Timberwolves

1999 won first round, 3-1

2001 won first round, 3-1

New Orleans Hornets (now Pelicans)

2008 won second round, 4-3

Phoenix Suns

1998 won first round, 3-1

2000 lost first round, 3-1

2003 won first round, 4-2

2005 won conference finals, 4-1

2007 won second round, 4-2

2008 won first round, 4-1

2010 lost second round, 4-0

Portland Trail Blazers

1999 won conference finals, 4-0

2014 won second round, 4-1

Sacramento Kings

2006 won first round, 4-2

Seattle SuperSonics/Oklahoma City Thunder

2002 won first round, 3-2

2005 won second round, 4-2

2012 lost conference finals, 4-2

2014 won conference finals, 4-2

2016 lost second round, 4-2

Utah Jazz

1998 lost second round, 4-1

2007 won conference finals, 4-1

2012 won first round, 4-0

Suns didn’t draft Kawhi Leonard, in part, because he sweated too much during interview

7 Comments

A snapshot of the 2011 NBA draft:

The Morrii have had nice careers, but why did Phoenix pass on Leonard, who has become one of the NBA’s best players?

Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic (hat tip: Scott Howard):

But with a front office conducting its first draft in Phoenix, then-General Manager Lance Blanks’ staff did not have Leonard in the discussion. Part of the Suns’ knock on Leonard, beyond his perimeter shot, was how nervously he acted in a draft combine interview, when he sweated through his suit.

That’s from a 2015 article, but the humor and lesson are lasting.

Teams sometimes drive themselves crazy in the pre-draft process by overanalyzing players. Interviews are important, but like every factor, nobody should overreact to them.

The Spurs didn’t see a sweaty wreck. They saw a good defender with potential to develop offensively and the diligence to work at his craft. And they were very right.