The Wizards haven’t won a second-round playoff game at home since 1979, losing all six of their previous opportunities. The 1982 Washington Bullets lost both home games to the Boston Celtics at the Capital Centre before going out in five games. The 2005 Wizards lost both home games to the Miami Heat, which didn’t need Shaquille O’Neal for either contest to complete a sweep.
In this year’s second round, the Wizards had two horrific second halves against the Indiana Pacers – getting outscored 51-30 in Game 3 and 57-37 in Game 4 – to help put them in a three-games-to-two hole in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Washington earned another shot at finally ending a 35-year drought with a dominant Game 5 performance in which John Wall regained his shooting stroke, Marcin Gortat channeled his inner Moses Malone and the Wizards destroyed the Pacers on the glass.
If the Wizards want to extend their season, they’ll have to find a way to win Game 6 at Verizon Center, where they have gone 1-3 this postseason. The home futility has been so confounding for the team that Gortat said they have considered several ways to change their routine.
“We actually tried to come up with an idea to lock the team in a hotel and have a team breakfast this morning in hotel and then get two buses from hotel to arena but at the end of the day, we didn’t do it,” Gortat said. “Maybe after the game I will tell you how to win a game at home.”
The Wizards’ past five playoff runs have all ended at home. The Bullets suffered a three-game sweep to the eventual champion Chicago Bulls at Capital Centre in 1997, which was followed by the aforementioned loss to Miami at MCI Center and three more series against the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2006 (in six games), 2007 (in four) and 2008 (six). Washington last avoided elimination at home in 1988, when the Bullets pushed eventual conference champion Detroit to a full five games in first round.
“I’m not worried about, have they won a second-round game in 35 years? Or whatever the case may be,” Wall said. “But I just think for this season, the way came out to support us in all our playoff games and we’re only what, 1-3? You got to do better than that.
“I think we owe them a win,” Wall said of the home fans. “I think this is what we wanted. To have an opportunity to come back and play in front of them, one more time, before this series is over and maybe come out with a big win.”
If the Wizards beat Indiana tonight, they’ll become 30th team in NBA history to force a Game 7 after trailing 3-1 in a best-of-seven series. Game 7 is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. on Sunday on ABC.
“It’s a lot of pressure, but I think we’re embracing it. We’re accepting it,” Bradley Beal said. “We were down 3-1, so why not try to make history? We’ve got a great opportunity to do that.”
Gortat agrees, even if it means that the Wizards have to play at home. “It’s fun. Definitely fun to play at home in front of our fans. They definitely deserve it. They support us through the playoffs a lot. But at end of the day, I wish this Game 6 would be on the road,” Gortat said. “From our basketball perspective, it would be better to be on the road because we play better on the road. But yeah, for our fans I’m glad we have it at home.”
More on the Wizards and NBA: