In the euphoria of the Wizards’ incredible comeback, overtime victory over the Boston Celtics, John Wall was already overlooking the regular season finale in Cleveland on Wednesday and thinking about next year. In a postgame television interview, Wall said he was focused on making the playoffs in his second season. Afterward, Wall didn’t back away from his pledge.
“That’s our goal,” Wall said. “We played against teams that’s in the playoffs, we beat some of them; we lost to some of them. We’ve had close games against them, but I think we all are going to be mature next year, learn how to close out games learn how to trust each other more, like how we’ve been doing the last couple of games.”
Five of the Wizards’ past six games were against teams that were either fighting for their playoff lives or jostling for playoff positioning. They came out ahead, with losses to Indiana and Boston but wins over Charlotte, Atlanta and Boston (minus its Big Four, in Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo).
“That’s a playoff team. That’s a great team, no matter if they had their starters or not. We didn’t have none of our starters, basically. We didn’t have Nick. We didn’t have Rashard Lewis. We didn’t have Josh. It’s the same thing,” Andray Blatche said. “I ain’t going to lie. It felt good to get that win, man. It felt good.”
The Wizards (23-58) won their final four home games at Verizon Center and have won five out of seven overall. But who knew six weeks ago that the Eastern Conference playoffs were going to be determined by Jordan Crawford? Crawford was strapped to a bench in Atlanta, but for the second time in the past two weeks, he was fearless in crunch time. His baseline jumper that forced overtime, and his game-clinching three-pointer with 38 seconds remaining in the 95-94 victory meant that the Celtics would finish third and get the New York Knicks in the first round.
“With him it doesn’t matter if he’s missed five, six, seven shots and the other thing too is our guys have confidence,” Coach Flip Saunders said of Crawford, who forced overtime in a win over Utah on March 28. “They are not afraid to go to him, and he is not afraid to make those shots. It’s huge.”
Crawford said last week that the Wizards had developed “a swagger” and it was obvious that something was different about the team as it rallied from down six with less than a minute remaining. The Wizards have lost their share of games in disappointing fashion this season, but JaVale McGee said they have figured out what it takes to win now.
“It’s definitely belief, confidence and team chemistry,” McGee said. “It feels like we’re going to [carry] momentum into next year.”
All the way to the playoffs? Playoffs? “Next year, I look at it as there should be no excuses for us, period, at all for us,” Blatche said. “We all have a notch under our belt. They have a notch under their belt, and they should all know what it takes and come in and work hard and get some more wins.”
FROM THE POST
AROUND THE WEB
Deron Snyder thinks the Wizards are in good position for next season (Washington Times).
JaVale McGee says he’s always had post moves but “wasn’t getting the touches” (Mike Prada, Bullets Forever).
Ken Berger weighs in on Mark Cuban’s war against Internet reporters (CBSSports.com).
Ben Golliver says there’s no reason to panic about the Lakers’ recent poor play (Eye on Basketball, CBSSports.com).
The Heat pass on Eddy Curry (Adrian Wojnarowski, Yahoo!Sports.com).