The turnaround is complete. After starting the season 17-32, the Wizards won 17 of their final 23 games to get the eighth seed in the regular season, and on Thursday night in D.C., the Wizards clinched a spot in the playoffs after routing the Pacers 142-115 in the Play-In Tournament.
Washington lost to the Celtics in Boston on Tuesday night, but they had another chance to get it right against Indiana.
According to ESPN’s RPI, the Wizards’ chance to make the playoffs on April 6(Washington: 17-32) was 0.6 percent, but what a difference a few weeks make.
Russell Westbrook, who had 18 points, 15 assists, and eight rebounds, still had faith the team would make the playoffs despite the early struggles.
“Everybody was doubting us on the outside,” Westbrook said. “We had to figure out a way to knuckle up and make the playoffs, simple as that… I made it clear to the guys that we will make it.”
Washington(8) will face the Philadelphia 76ers(1) in their first-round series, and Game 1 begins on Sunday in Philadelphia.
Bradley Beal led the Wizards with 25 points, while Indiana was led by Malcolm Brogdon’s 24 points.
“Probably one of the best games we played all year,” Beal said. “Definitely, the most important one of the year.”
Now, the Wizards have a huge task ahead of them. Washington was swept by the 76ers in the regular season, so it won’t be easy. Washington does not have an answer for Joel Embiid. In three games against the Wizards, Embiid averaged 30 points and 9.7 rebounds.
Washington is going to need Westbrook and Beal to be at their best. Beal averaged 36 points per game against Philadelphia, including a 60-point explosion in January, while Westbrook averaged 22 points, 11.6 assists, and 8.0 rebounds a game.
If Washington can find a way to beat the number one seed in the East, the 76ers, it would be a shocker. However, because of their ability to score, Washington will play Philadelphia tough in this series, but Philadelphia is the better team, and in the NBA, the better team usually wins in a seven-game series. Expect the Sixers to get it done in five.