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Some Good Lottery News in the Minutiae

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The Clippers and the Knicks currently hold identical 23-56 records.  I was under the impression that if both teams are tied at the end of the season, the NBA would use the same tie-breakers (like head-to-head record) that they use to seed the playoffs.  I was wrong.

Here's how it works.  For the ping pong balls in the lottery, teams with identical records simply get the average of the positions they occupy.  So if the Clippers and Knicks remained tied at 5 and 6, then the 88 balls for 5th position and the 63 balls for 6th position would be averaged to 75.5.  Obviously, they can't put a half a ball in there, so in fact one team would get 76, and the other would get 75.

They break the tie through a random drawing.  It's significant not just for the extra ping pong ball, but also for the draft order if both teams end up outside the top three picks.  Since only the top three positions are determined by lottery, and the other 11 teams draft in reverse order of the standings, the tie-breaker is still incredibly significant.  

This is all surprisingly good news for the Clippers right now.  They didn't win the season series from too very many teams this year (OK, four to be exact).  But two of those were the Knicks and the Grizzlies.  The Grizzlies currently have 21 wins, with a couple of winnable games left: home against the T'Wolves and on the road against the Heat.  

If the Clippers, Grizz and Knicks all finished tied, instead of being locked into 6th with 63 balls based on head-to-head, suddenly the Clippers odds go up.  From 6.3% of getting the first overall pick to 9% - (6.3 + 8.8 + 11.9)/3.  They also have a one in three chance of moving into 4th position overall.

Of course, if the Knicks can win one more game (and the Knicks are on FIRE right now), or the Grizz can somehow close with 3 wins in 4 games (not likely), the odds go up again.  Oh, and the Clippers need to lose out, which doesn't really look like a problem.

But it turns out that dominating the Knicks and Grizz so thoroughly didn't hurt as much as we thought.

At any rate, there are 7 more games you can be watching closely in the final week of the season.  You're new favorite teams are the Knicks and the Grizzlies.