March 27, 2017
Sports Insider Weekly
Heading into Friday night’s game against the Brooklyn Nets, the Washington Wizards needed three things to happen to secure a spot in the playoffs. They delivered on one of them: defeating the Nets 129-108. Then, the Detroit Pistons were routed by the Orlando Magic 115-87, and the Philadelphia 76ers beat the Chicago Bills 117-107. With the win and a lot of luck, Washington punched their ticket to the playoffs.
This will be Washington’s third post-season appearance in four years and first since 2015. In both 2014 and 2015, the Wizards fell in the second round. This time around, the Wizards are a better team and seem poised to advance past the semifinals. It won’t be easy though; no D.C. sports team has advanced to the championship round in 18 years.
The Wizards (45-28) are currently third in the Eastern Conference, trailing only the Cavaliers (47-25) and the Celtics (48-26). While they may have clinched a playoff spot, how they play in the final three weeks of the regular season still matters, as it will factor into whom they face in the first round.
If the season ended today, the Wizards would face the Milwaukee Bucks (37-36). The Bucks are 11-4 in March with a top-10 offense and defense. While Washington may have gotten back on track after a rocky week, they are still 4-4 over the last eight games. Facing a team on a hot streak would be a less than ideal scenario for Washington.
The best match-up for the Wizards would be against the seventh ranked Indiana Pacers (37-36). They outmatch them on offense–while the Pacers rely heavily on star Paul George, the Wizards have weapons beyond just John Wall–and their defense isn’t a big enough threat to a strong Washington team. The Wizards boast a 3-1 record against Indiana this season, and while nothing is ever set in stone, the Pacers would be a much more favorable opponent.
Washington proved they are a team to watch in the playoffs when they beat the Cavaliers 127-115 on Saturday night.
Wall led his team to victory on the road, scoring 18 points in the first quarter to finish with 37 points on the night. Bradley Beal added 27 in the Washington victory that avenged an overtime loss to Cleveland last month.
An injured LeBron James finished with just 24 points and 11 rebounds, while Kyrie Irving had 23 and Kevin Love added 17. It was a disappointing game for the Cavaliers (47-25) whose defense remains a concern as the regular season winds down. Still, Washington’s ability to win against the defending champions at home is a testament to the talent and caliber of this year’s team.
“You don’t want to go into the playoffs knowing you have to face those guys and you never won against them in the regular season,” Wall said. “To come here and win in a tough place, it’s definitely a boost.”