The Washington Wizards’ pipe dream of sneaking into the playoffs came to a crashing halt Wednesday with a loss at Toronto that eliminated them from playoff contention, but the simple fact that this sentence contains the words “Wizards” and “postseason” shows how far this team has come since the start of the season.
After the grisly 0-12 start to the campaign, the Wizards, dealing with patchwork lineups, injured stars and out-of-the-blue contributors, righted the ship to play some solid basketball. They have a 23-19 mark since John Wall returned, including eight straight home victories heading into Saturday’s contest against Indiana.
Yes, long-suffering Wizards fans have seen this show before: Washington won its last six games of the 2011-12 campaign and six of 10 in the 2010-11 season. But this year’s surge has a different tenor.
“There are things for all of us to show coming down the stretch,” coach Randy Wittman said.
Where prior Wizards teams were merely playing out the string, this year’s group seems determined to finish in ninth place in the Eastern Conference — laughable to the league’s big boys but a step in the right direction for the Wizards.
“We are still fighting for our season,” guard John Wall said. “Just to know where we came from to start the season to where we are now, we have a lot of pride in ourselves. We want to close the season strong. This is the most wins I’ve had since I’ve been here, so it feels great.”
With seven games remaining, Washington is 28-47, tied with the Raptors for 10th place in the East and 2½ games behind ninth-place Philadelphia. Six of the Wizards’ final seven games are against playoff teams, and the other is against the 76ers.
This, however, may not be as daunting as it seems. Since Wall returned, Washington is 13-8 against teams with winning records, although the team will be without shooting guard Bradley Beal for the remainder of the season due to a stress injury in his right fibula.
“We are not trying to cruise either,” forward Martell Webster said. “You can easily say it’s time to pack it in because we are not playing for the anything, but we are. We are playing for each other.”
Turn Back the Clock
The Wizards will honor the 35th anniversary of the Washington Bullets’ 1978 championship Saturday by unveiling a new championship banner and reuniting the team.
That squad — led by Wes Unseld, Bob Dandridge, Elvin Hayes, Phil Chenier and Kevin Grevey — knocked off Seattle in seven games.
“We are thrilled that we can commemorate the proudest moment in our franchise’s history by reuniting the members of the championship team and reliving those memories with our fans,” Wizards owner Ted Leonsis said.