The Wizards have a winning record of 4-3 in their past seven games against teams in the top nine spots in the Eastern Conference. Since March 30, they have sent Philadelphia free falling, continued Orlando’s Dwight Howard-less funk, put Chicago’s hold on the league’s top overall seed in danger and possibly buried Milwaukee’s chances of making the playoffs.
Coach Randy Wittman said his players have had no problem assuming the role of spoiler and having a chance to “cause some grief” in the last few weeks of the regular season.
“You want to win games and play better as a team, but if you can spoil some chances, why not?” John Wall said after the Wizards defeated the Bucks, 121-112 on Wednesday at Verizon Center.
Milwaukee is now 2½ games behind Philadelphia with five games remaining. The 76ers have four games left – including one against the Bucks – and have a magic number of three to clinch the final playoff spot.
“This is a team that was fighting for its playoff life,” Wittman said of Bucks. “That needed this game. As well as Chicago, trying to get first, positioning in the playoffs. Orlando and Philly. I’m proud of how these guys have stood up to the teams that we’re playing. We got more coming up with Miami, that are going to be important games. And we’ll see where we stand on Saturday with that game on the road.”
The Wizards (16-46) will play two of their final four games against Miami, with a home game against Charlotte and a rematch in Cleveland. Kevin Seraphin said these games serve a purpose for this team.
“We still have to prove we can be a better team. For us, the season is still not over. We can’t say we’re not in the playoffs and don’t play anymore. It’s not like that. We want to play. That’s like a preseason game for us, for next year. We have to get going and get some wins there.”
The Wizards are just 4-7 this month, but they’ve won four out of their past six games. Bad teams can at times find a way to sneak in some wins against sleepwalking opponents, but the Wizards haven’t had much carryover in recent years.
Washington has done this late season dance before. It went 4-4 in the final month two years ago, and finished with 26 wins. What happened the following season? The Wizards went 5-3, needing that push to finish with 23 wins. This year, they need to win out just to get 20 wins, albeit in a lockout-shortened season.
Wittman said he was encouraged by his team’s performance in its past two wins against the Bulls and Bucks, but added that he felt the same last week before the Wizards went into New York – and suffered their worst loss of the season, producing one of the worst offensive performances in franchise history.
They had some carryover in a miserable effort the next night against a lowly, depleted Cleveland team led by Luke Harangody, a player splitting time in the Development League playoffs. But they have bounced back in impressive fashion.
“Everybody was disappointed after that Cleveland loss. We can’t let that happen no more,” James Singleton said. “I know it’s the end of the year. I know teams probably think we’re going out without a fight. That ain’t how we play no more. Different makeup right now. They’ve been taking it to heart for a couple of games now.”
But Wall said the Wizards have to find a way to not have the light turn on so late in the season. “You get disappointed, because you would want to be in the playoffs,” Wall said. “That’s your goal. You never want to end your season early and just go home, wait for next season and rest. It’s just giving us great motivation, seeing where we should be and preparing ourselves, so that everybody works this summer and comes back and be prepared for next season.”