Though the televisions remained dark in the locker room and their games finished less than 15 minutes before the Miami-Brooklyn contest, Washington’s players were well aware of the shift in the playoff standings that resulted from their 98-85 loss to Charlotte.
With Brooklyn’s win at Miami on Wednesday night, the Nets (33-30) took control of the fifth spot in the Eastern Conference, moving a half-game ahead of the Wizards, who fell to the sixth spot at 33-31.
“I don’t think we had the energy we used to have, and on top of that, Brooklyn won, so we’re kind of losing that record we had,” Marcin Gortat said.
The Wizards also lost ground to Charlotte, which drew within 2.5 games of Washington at the No. 7 spot. Though there’s no reason to panic, but with six of the Wizards’ final 17 games against playoff contenders Brooklyn, Indiana, Charlotte, Chicago and Miami, each passing game becomes more critical for the Wizards, who are vying for their first playoff berth since the 2007-08 season.
“It’s going to be neck and neck,” Bradley Beal said. “We’re up in the series against Brooklyn so that kind of gives us more of an edge but at the the same time, we’ve still got to win games. They can still win more games than we do and end up higher than we do. So we’ve got to take each game seriously and approach it the right way and get wins when we’re supposed to.”
Since the All-Star break, when John Wall’s dunk contest win and Beal’s performance in the three-point shootout turned heads toward the Wizards, the team has gone 8-4, tying it for the league’s fourth best record in that span.
Washington has also played well away from home, recording a mark of 14-7 in its last 21 games on the road, which is where nine of its final 17 contests will take place.
But as Beal alluded to, the numbers of the past mean little in getting the Wizards to where they want to be in the future — the playoffs.
While Wall snapped out of his recent offensive funk with 23 points, the rest of Washington’s starters totaled just 37 points on 15-for-42 shooting. Finding the balance between Wall the scorer, who dropped 12 first-quarter points, and Wall the facilitator, who is leading the league in total assists with 555, will be key for Washington as it develops its identity for the tightly contested games of the postseason.
“Some nights those guys are gonna be hot, some nights we’re not going to shoot the ball well, but I still believe in those guys and trust to get those guys open looks,” Wall said. “I just made a couple easy shots and got to the basket more…but it doesn’t mean anything to me if we don’t win.”