With fifth seed in play, Wizards season finale has more importance


So, there’s a chance we can move past you? (EPA/Michael Reynolds)

When the Wizards needed New York to lose to clinch a playoff berth in late March, the Knicks were of no assistance.

The Knicks won on consecutive nights and forced the Wizards to take care of business on their own on April 2 with a win against the Boston Celtics.

On Tuesday, the Wizards needed the Knicks to beat Brooklyn Nets to have any chance of rising to fifth seed in the Eastern Conference. The Knicks looked like they again would provide no help when they announced that Carmelo Anthony’s season was over after an MRI revealed that he had been playing with a torn right labrum.

Anthony’s absence, however, didn’t keep New York from preventing cross-borough rival Brooklyn from clinching fifth place with a 109-98 win at Barclays Center. Knicks Coach Mike Woodson gave his former college teammate, Randy Wittman, and the Wizards a chance to get even more out of a win on Wednesday at TD Garden.

The Wizards (43-38) are now one game behind the Nets for the fifth seed and own the tiebreaker if they finish with the same record.

The Nets played four starters – Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett – in an effort to win and possibly take a rest for their season finale in Cleveland. But now, Brooklyn could slide to sixth with a loss to the Cavaliers and a Wizards win against the Celtics.

Afterward, Nets Coach Jason Kidd implied that Brooklyn wasn’t worried about where it will finish since neither matchup would come with homecourt advantage. “Fifth, sixth, same thing,” Kidd told reporters in New York after the game. “You know, we’re going to play Toronto or Chicago. You play 82 games to get a seed and we’ll be fifth or sixth.”

Washington has a one-game lead over Charlotte and could clinch no worse than sixth if the Bobcats lose to Chicago. That outcome should be known by halftime in Boston because Charlotte tips off against the Bulls an hour before the Wizards play.

If the Bobcats win, the Wizards would also have to win to avoid slipping down to seventh and getting the Miami Heat in the first round.

If Chicago wins, Toronto would also have to win to secure the third overall seed since it holds the tiebreaker as the Atlantic Division champion. A Chicago loss or Toronto win would guarantee that the Bulls are the fourth seed.

Game 82 is far from meaningless in the East.

“I want to have an edge on Wednesday, last game of the year on the road,” Wittman said. “We’ve secured a winning record on the road for this team. I want them continue, even though its one game left, to build and use that game as something positive going into the playoffs.”

The team is in the playoffs for the first time in years. Why does it seem like local fans aren't excited? (Post Sports Live/The Washington Post)
Michael Lee is the national basketball writer for The Washington Post.
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