The NBA Draft Lottery provided a lot of excitement and hope for a ton of NBA fans on Tuesday night, and then an actual playoff game (sort of) happened. The Celtics, who are in the NBA’s version of the Final Four, were the favorite to win the No. 1 pick, and then did it. And then the Warriors destroyed the Spurs (who were missing Kawhi Leonard) by a score of 136-100 to take a decisive 2-0 lead in their series to decide who will represent the West in the Finals.
First of all, the lottery…
Philly’s Joel Embiid is my teammate’s (Mike Gallagher) favorite player, for a lot of reasons. One of those reasons is his personality, and Embiid did not disappoint during the lottery. Nodding his head, giving a look of disbelief and starting it off with a “trust the process” quote, he lived up to the hype. I just hope and pray the kid can get and stay healthy for the rest of his career. If you don’t love Embiid for his game, you can at least respect his awesome personality and social media game.
So, here’s the order for the first 14 picks after the ping-pong balls fell:
1. Boston Celtics – They had the best odds at the No. 1 pick and got it, thanks to the trade with Brooklyn that sent Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry for Gerald Wallace, a bunch of scrubs and a swap of 2017 first-round picks. Oops. The Celtics need a forward, in my opinion, but guards are swarming at the top of the draft, so Markelle Fultz, out of Washington, should be the No. 1 pick of the draft. But with guards Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier on board, Fultz is about the last thing the Celtics need. Then again, Thomas is going to demand a boatload of money after next season, so maybe Fultz makes a lot of sense. Then again, Amir Johnson starts for them, for Pete’s sake. If the Celtics agree with me and don’t want to take another guard, they could either trade down or go off the grid and take a guy like Josh Jackson out of Kansas, who can play some forward.
2. Los Angeles Lakers – Is this a match made in heaven (or Hell) for the Lakers and Lonzo Ball? I don’t know. But what I do know is that “if you can’t afford ‘em, you’re not a big baller.” I simply cannot imagine Ball ending up in Boston, nor would he want to go there. And he (and his daddy) wants to play in L.A.
Here’s the rest of the lottery order. We’ll have plenty of mock drafts and speculation posted in the days ahead, and I’m really not the person to try to break it down for you right now, as I still haven’t done all of my draft prep.
3. Philadelphia 76ers
4. Phoenix Suns
5. Sacramento Kings
6. Orlando Magic
7. Minnesota Timberwolves
8. New York Knicks
9. Dallas Mavericks
10. Sacramento Kings (again)
11. Charlotte Hornets
12. Detroit Pistons
13. Denver Nuggets
14. Miami Heat
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The Warriors jumped out to a 33-16 lead on the Spurs in the first quarter and never looked back. The halftime score was 72-44. The Spurs run a “system” that is supposed to hold up against anyone. And historically it has. And yeah, they destroyed the Rockets without Leonard in Game 7 after beating them in Game 6, when Leonard sat out the entire overtime period, but the Warriors are not the Rockets. And the Spurs have, arguably, never relied upon a player as heavily as they rely upon Leonard. I’m sorry to say it, but this series is over – even if Kawhi is able to come back and play. If you take one of Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green or Klay Thompson out of the Warriors lineup, they’re still better than the Spurs and every other team in the league. And if the Spurs don’t have Leonard, this is simply a lopsided mismatch. And if they do have Leonard, it’s still a mismatch. The Warriors still haven’t lost a game in these playoffs. Oh, and Mike Brown, the fill-in coach of the Warriors, was pushed out of the way by the Spurs’ bus and entourage on his way to the arena, and he was at home. Not cool, but he handled it beautifully, in my opinion.
The Warriors were on fire from downtown early and never let off the gas pedal. Curry led the way with 29 points, seven boards, seven assists, three steals and six 3-pointers on 8-of-13 shooting, Patrick McCaw hit 6-of-8 shots and three 3-pointers off the bench for 18 points, Kevin Durant added a quiet 16 points and two 3-pointers on 6-of-10 shooting, and Draymond Green had 13 points, nine boards, six dimes, two steals, two blocks and two 3-pointers in just 28 minutes. Klay Thompson was quiet with 11 points, six boards, four assists and two 3-pointers on 4-of-10 shooting, and Shaun Livingston and Ian Clark had 10 points apiece off the bench. This was a really dominant performance and the Spurs appear to be done. Andre Iguodala was out with a left knee injury and Zaza Pachulia left with a heel injury, and did not return. Not that it matters.
No one was complaining about LaMarcus Aldridge recently and he had 28 points, seven boards, three steals, a block and a 3-pointer in Game 1 on Sunday. But he showed out for just eight points on 4-of-11 shooting in 27 minutes last night, and as Gregg Popovich said after the game, the Spurs need for him to step up and score – especially without Kawhi. Jonathon Simmons, starting for Leonard, led the way with a team-high 22 points, three boards, three assists and two 3-pointers on 8-of-17 shooting in Kawhi’s place, but only reserve forward Davis Bertans joined him in double figures with 13 points, four rebounds, a steal, a block and three 3-pointers in just 17 minutes on Tuesday. Pau Gasol scored seven, Patty Mills had five and Danny Green had five points, to round out the scoring for the Spurs’ starters. David Lee had two points in five minutes, Dewayne Dedmon scored nine points with nine rebounds, Dejounte Murray and Kyle Anderson both scored eight off the bench, and the Spurs looked more like a D-League team than a team vying for a trip to the Finals. Ugly basketball, an ugly matchup and there doesn’t appear to be much hope in sight for the Spurs. Leonard has until Saturday to get into game shape, so we’ll have to see if he can get ready for Game 3. If he’s able to go in Game 3, expect a lot less from Simmons, unless Leonard is limited (and I think he will be, if he’s even able to play).
Wednesday night will give us our first glimpse of the Cavaliers at the Celtics in Game 1 of their series. I fully expect the Cavs to come out and win this game and steal homecourt, so you can probably just set your alarm for Game 1 of the Finals, when we’ll very likely see the Cavs visiting the Warriors for another chance at a ring for both teams. But the Cavs are not a lock in this series, and it should be a very entertaining one to watch.