Celtics

Celtics, Jazz have never looked smarter for their 2017 NBA Draft decisions

Celtics, Jazz have never looked smarter for their 2017 NBA Draft decisions

Vivint Smart Home Arena is a fitting site for the Boston Celtics' matchup with the Utah Jazz on Wednesday night.

After all, the Celtics and Jazz got to where they are by being the two smartest teams at the 2017 NBA Draft.

The Celtics entered with the No. 1 overall pick and the chance to draft Washington star Markelle Fultz. Instead, they moved down two slots, acquired a future first-round pick from the Philadelphia 76ers and got their guy anyway in Jayson Tatum.

Ten picks later, the Jazz swung a trade with the Denver Nuggets to land No. 13 overall pick Donovan Mitchell.

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Guess which players  have scored the most career points of anyone in the 2017 draft class? That'd be Mitchell (22.7 career average) and Tatum (16.9 career average).

Mitchell made the quicker ascent: He averaged 20.5 points per game as a rookie to land on the NBA All-Rookie First Team and is currently averaging 24.4 points per game, the most by a Jazz player since Hall of Famer Karl Malone in 1999-00.

Tatum appears to have the higher ceiling, however: He's two years younger than the 23-year-old Mitchell and is putting up ridiculous numbers this month in addition to blossoming into a strong defender.

But the best way to quantify Boston and Utah's success in the 2017 Draft is to look at who they didn't select.

Here's a recap of the first 15 picks:

1. Markelle Fultz, Philadelphia 76ers
2. Lonzo Ball, Los Angeles Lakers
3. Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics
4. Josh Jackson, Phoenix Suns
5. De'Aaron Fox, Sacramento Kings
6. Jonathan Isaac, Orlando Magic
7. Lauri Markkanen, Chicago Bulls
8. Frank Ntilikina, New York Knicks
9. Dennis Smith Jr., Dallas Mavericks
10. Zach Collins, Portland Trail Blazers
11. Malik Monk, Charlotte Hornets
12. Luke Kennard, Detroit Pistons
13. Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz
14. Bam Adebayo, Miami Heat

15. Justin Jackson, Sacramento Kings

The players in bold are All-Stars, as Tatum, Mitchell and Adebayo are the only three players from the 2017 draft class to crack an All-Star roster.

The two picks ahead of Tatum? Fultz played in 33 total games over his first two seasons in Philly before he was shipped off to Orlando, while Ball missed a combined 65 games over his first two campaigns before the Lakers dealt him to the Pelicans.

The pick behind Tatum? Jackson got traded to the Grizzlies after two disgruntled years in Phoenix and actually got assigned to Memphis' G-League team earlier this season.

Fox has been brilliant for Sacramento, while Isaac and Markkanen boast upside if they can stay healthy.

But Tatum and Mitchell have outplayed them all.

And when the two All-Stars meet Wednesday night, it will be further validation that Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge and Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey knew exactly what they were doing in Brooklyn in June 2017.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Jazz, which begins Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 10:30 p.m. You can also stream on the MyTeams App.

Classic Celtics: Larry Bird lifts C's over Rockets in 1986 NBA Finals clincher

Classic Celtics: Larry Bird lifts C's over Rockets in 1986 NBA Finals clincher

Some consider the 1986 Boston Celtics one of the greatest NBA teams of all time.

Here's your chance to watch them finish off that historic season.

NBC Sports Boston's "Classic Celtics" series -- which brought you Kemba Walker's 32-point outburst against the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday -- rolls on Friday with Game 6 of the 1986 NBA Finals between the Celtics and Houston Rockets.

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The Rockets took Game 5 in Houston to send the series back to Boston, but they weren't prepared for Larry Bird, whose magnificent performance in Game 6 (29 points, 11 rebounds, 12 assists) helped the C's earn a 114-97 win and clinch their 16th NBA championship.

Our re-broadcast of Celtics-Rockets airs Friday at 7 p.m. ET, and if watching Bird at the height of his powers wasn't entertaining enough, former Celtics center Bill Walton will join Brian Scalabrine throughout the night to provide color commentary.

Here's when and how to watch:

When: Friday, April 3, 7 p.m. ET
TV: NBC Sports Boston
Streaming: NBCSportsBoston.com and in the MyTeams app

Click here to listen and subscribe to the Celtics Talk Podcast:

How Kobe Bryant once used a cutout of Paul Pierce as 'motivation'

How Kobe Bryant once used a cutout of Paul Pierce as 'motivation'

Kobe Bryant will forever be remembered as one of the fiercest competitors in sports history. That unmatched competitiveness was amplified whenever his Los Angeles Lakers faced off against their archrival, the Boston Celtics.

Two months after the Lakers fell to the C's in the 2008 NBA Finals, Bryant headed to China to take part in the Summer Olympics. There, he helped the United States earn its first gold medal since 2000.

But the sting from his loss to the Celtics overshadowed the euphoria of his Olympics victory.

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WNBA star Sue Bird, who also was in China for the '08 Games, told a great story about witnessing Bryant's competitive attitude while drinking wine and playing card games with him that summer.

“He was fresh off [the Finals loss] and you could tell [he was still thinking it]” Bird told Los Angeles Sparks star and ESPN analyst Chiney Ogwuimike.“… [We were] just kicking it and he saw this newspaper — it was something about the Lakers series and blah blah blah — and there was a picture of Paul Pierce celebrating.

“And he didn’t say a word. He didn’t say anything. But we saw him take the paper. He started cutting out the Paul Pierce picture. He folded it up and put it in his pocket and was like, ‘Motivation.’ And we were like, ‘Oh, it never stops with him.’ And you can tell.”

Watch below:

There never will be another player like the "Black Mamba."

Bryant tragically passed away in a helicopter crash on January 26 along with his daughter, Gianna, and seven others. He was 41 years old.

You can listen to Pierce reminisce about the C's Finals win over the Lakers in the Celtics Talk Podcast below: