The Wizards will still have a chance to end a six-year hex that has clouded the franchise ever since LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers closed the curtain on the last playoff run of the Gilbert Arenas, Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler era.
But it won’t come as quickly as they had hoped. For one night, the Wizards (38-35) and their fans rooted on the Golden State Warriors to defeat the New York Knicks on Sunday and ensure that Washington will once again play into late April and early May. The Knicks, however, stunned the Warriors, 89-84, which means that the Wizards’ magic number to clinch a playoff spot remains at one.
Golden State had a chance to tie the game late, but Shannon Brown – whom the Wizards acquired in the Marcin Gortat deal and later cut – stole an errant pass from Warriors all-star Stephen Curry to secure the win for the Knicks (31-43).
Washington is still one win or another Knicks loss from fulfilling a season-long goal and it has a chance to accomplish that feat on Monday in Charlotte, where the sixth-place Wizards will take on the seventh-place Bobcats in a game that has major implications with regards to seeding in the Eastern Conference.
“That’s awesome. It’s all about playing in the playoffs. That’s a dream of a lot of players,” said Gortat, who hasn’t been to the postseason since 2010. “We’re just glad that, hopefully, we can achieve that.”
The Wizards trail the Chicago Bulls by three games for fourth place and the Brooklyn Nets by 1½ games for fifth in the East. After defeating the Atlanta Hawks, 101-97, on Saturday, the Wizards have a three-game lead over the Bobcats with nine games remaining.
“I wasn’t too concerned about a little more cushion,” Wizards Coach Randy Wittman said of being three games ahead of the Bobcats after beating the Hawks. “I’m more concerned with us. Let’s get playing positive, consistent, feeling good about ourselves, how we’re playing, the style we’re playing, the intensity we’re playing with. That’s more of what I’m concerned about these last nine games.”
Veteran Al Harrington wasn’t worried about whether or not the Warriors won and was focused more on what the Wizards are doing in the final stretch. “We’re ready. We’re definitely going to get that win,” Harrington said. “We’re trying to build momentum going into the playoffs. We’re not trying to limp in there or barely make it. We’re trying to get in there and win a series.”