April 25, 2017
Sports Insider Weekly
The Washington Wizards headed to Atlanta with a decisive 2-0 lead and a chance to eliminate the Hawks on their home court. But instead of winning, or even taking a commanding series lead, the Wizards dropped two straight games to let Atlanta even the score and keep their playoff hopes alive.
It’s an unfortunate pivot for Washington, who not only won, but dominated the first two games. John Wall was an offensive powerhouse in the first two games, running over the Hawks to a quick two-game lead. That dominance was lost on the road, with the Wizards dropping back-to-back games including an embarrassing 116-98 rout in Game 3.
Washington showed more grit in Monday’s match-up, with Bradley Beal scoring 32 points after a dismal performance in Game 3, and John Wall having a good game with 22 points and 10 assists. But it wasn’t enough to overpower the Hawks, who put together a more complete effort to lift them to a 111-101 victory Game 4 victory to even the series and cause the Wizards to question their postseason durability.
The team has a one day break before hosting the Hawks for Game 5 on Wednesday. If home court advantage is what gives them the competitive edge, the the Wizards are in luck–two of the last three games (including 7, if necessary) are at Verizon Center.
“We’ve got home court for a reason,” Wall said. “It’s an opportunity for us to go home, take care of what we need to do and come back here on Friday.”
While it may be enough to advance to the second round, Washington will need to be able to win on the road if they want a real shot at a championship appearance. LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers have already clinched a second-round berth, and are the clear favorites to win the East. Beating them won’t be easy for any team; they swept the Pacers in round one.
But Washington will cross that bridge if, and when, they get there. For now, they just need to stay alive.
The Washington Capitals are headed to the second-round of the Stanley Cup playoffs after eliminating the Toronto Maple Leafs 2-1 in overtime on Sunday.
Their victory came after a mid-series rough patch: after winning Game 1, the Caps lost the next two games to put their fans on edge. Washington responded to the pressure by winning Game 4 on the road, and then edging Toronto 2-1 in overtime on Friday.
That win pushed the Maple Leafs to the brink of elimination. Game 6 was scoreless until the final period, when Auston Matthews scored for Toronto with 7:45 into the third. Washington ended the shutout about five minutes later, when Marcus Johansson scored to tie the game.
The teams headed to OT–the fifth time this series–and once again, Johansson was the hero for Washington. He broke the tie 6:31 minutes into overtime to win the game for Washington and head them to the second round for the third straight year.
The Caps will face a familiar foe in Round 2–the Pittsburgh Penguins. Pittsburgh has played spoiler to Washington’s Stanley Cup chances in both 2009 and 2016–going on to win the championship each time. Getting past the defending champs won’t be easy, but it will prove the team’s strength.
“We play them twice in the playoffs and we don’t have success,” Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin said of Pittsburgh. “We lost in Game 6 and Game 7. You just have to move forward. You don’t have to be afraid. You know you play against Stanley Cup champion and they are very good team, but so we are. This battle has to be done if we want to get success.”