By Brian Robb, CBS Boston

BOSTON – There are just under two weeks remaining in the NBA regular season, which means the races are heating up at both ends of the standings. While much of the national attention will be placed on the final playoff spots up for grabs in each conference, there is plenty at stake in the bottom of the standings as well, with lottery odds on the line.

For Celtics fans hoping for a shot at a top-3 or top overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, the team’s results have been favorable since I last gave an overview of the lottery standings back in March. Boston has lost 12 of their last 13 games overall, as they have maintained their position as the fourth-worst team in the NBA. That horrid stretch has also opened the door for Boston to “catch” the Orlando Magic potentially and snag the third-best lottery odds.

Unfortunately though, it’s still pretty crowded in the cellar. The Utah Jazz have gone toe-to-toe with Boston, losing nine of their last 10 games as well, enabling them to stay even with Boston’s current 23-52 record.

With just seven games remaining and a serious piece of Boston’s future at stake, let’s take a closer look at the final couple weeks of the season and handicap the lottery race.

Current Lottery Standings

1. Bucks 14-61
2. Sixers 16-59
3. Magic 21-54
4. Jazz 23-52
4. Celtics 23-52
6. Lakers 25-50
7. Pistons 27-48
7. Kings 27-48

A few things to note here before we break down the individual schedules:

–The Kings have performed better than suspected, going 4-6 in their last 10 to separate themselves from the middle of the pack in the past 10 games. They won’t be threatening Boston’s position in the standings down the stretch.

–The Pistons remain in a freefall as they attempt to secure the #8 overall pick or better. If they don’t secure one of those picks, their first round pick is sent to Charlotte. Boston and Detroit faceoff on Saturday night.

–The Lakers have pulled off a surprising couple wins at home, to give Boston a two-game cushion over them but a tough slate against the remaining Western Conference teams jockeying for playoff spots could change that quickly.

Remaining Schedule Breakdowns

Magic (21-54)
Games remaining: 7 (Home: 4 Away: 3)
Games vs. teams “fighting” for playoff spots or positioning: 6
Games against .500+ teams: 7
Remaining games: @CHA, MIN, BKN, WAS, @BKN, @CHI, IND
Analysis: A couple weeks ago, falling below Orlando in the standings seemed like a dream for Boston, but due to a two-game gap with just a couple weeks to go, we have to entertain the possibility. Unfortunately, one look at Orlando’s schedule deems it a long shot for the Celtics to “catch” them, as every team they play outside of Minnesota has something to play for during these final couple weeks. With that said, Orlando has played well recently at home so a 3-4 finish isn’t out of the question.
Projected Record: 23-59

Celtics (23-52)
Games remaining: 7 (Home: 3 Away: 4)
Games vs. teams “fighting” for playoff spots or positioning: 4
Games against .500+ teams: 1
Remaining games: PHI, @DET, @ATL, CHA, @CLE, @PHI, WAS
Analysis: The Celtics haven’t seen many wins in the past couple weeks, but that should change down the stretch with this slate. Two games against Philly, along with a host of matchups with mediocre squads mean there are at least a couple more victories in the cards. The fact Rajon Rondo will miss the Detroit and Cleveland games will increase the likelihood of losses in those contests though, as will the fact the Celtics haven’t won a road game in their last 11 tries. Even a W in Philly can’t be counted on as a sure thing with numbers like that. The smart money says these guys won’t be able to fall below Orlando though.
Projected Record: 26-56

Jazz (23-52)
Games remaining: 7 (Home: 4, Away: 3)
Games vs. teams “fighting” for playoff spots or positioning: 3
Games against .500+ teams: 4
Remaining games: NO, @GS, DAL, POR, @DEN, LAL, @MIN
Analysis: Utah was supposed to be the young hungry team in this race, but that hasn’t proved to be the case as evidenced by their recent slide. Still, this is a pretty favorable schedule for a Western Conference team. Very winnable home games against the Pelicans and Lakers loom, along with a few chances to play spoiler. Utah will have to come to play to win on the road in Minnesota and Denver however, so I wouldn’t count on them for more than a couple wins overall.
Projected Record: 25-57

LA Lakers (25-50)
Games remaining: 7 (Home: 4, Away: 3)
Games vs. teams “fighting” for playoff spots or positioning: 6
Games against .500+ teams: 6
Remaining games: DAL, @LAC, HOU, GS, MEM, @UTH, @SAS
Analysis: Easily the toughest out of all the remaining slates goes to LA. Dallas, Golden State and Memphis are playing for their playoff lives, while the Rockets and Clippers will be fighting for positioning in the competitive Western Conference. The game with the Jazz looms large, as will the final contest against the Spurs. Gregg Popovich may be resting most of his roster that night if he’s got the top seed locked up. That might open up the door for an extra win for LA.
Projected Record: 26-56

Updated Projected Final Standings

1. Bucks 15-67
2. Sixers 17-65
3. Magic 23-59
4. Jazz 25-57
5. Celtics 26-56
5. Lakers 26-56
7. Pistons 29-53
7. Kings 29-53

If these projections hold up, the Celtics would have a 29.2% chance at a top 3 pick and a 8.8% chance at the number one overall pick during the NBA Draft Lottery on May 20th. For Celtics fans that want to improve those odds, your best bet is to root for Orlando, Utah and the Lakers every night the rest of the way.

News filtered out this week that top prospects Joel Embiid (Kansas) and Jabari Parker (Duke) might be returning to school, so Brian Robb talked to 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Felger & Massarotti program Friday afternoon about how this impacts the upcoming draft for the Boston Celtics.

Give it a listen below:

Brian Robb covers the Celtics for CBS Boston and contributes to, among other media outlets. You can follow him on Twitter @CelticsHub.


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