Wizards back in the mix of NBA playoffs


John Wall is part of a dangerous back-court duo who could help the Wizards advance in the playoffs. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

The National Basketball Association playoffs are underway, and for the first time in six seasons the Washington Wizards are playing in the big games. Let’s take a look at the Wizards and some other playoff stories.

Wizards: Believe it or not, Washington may make some noise in the NBA playoffs. Nene, the team’s talented big man, is healthy again and playing well. John Wall and Bradley Beal are a dangerous back-court duo. The Wizards added a couple of savvy veterans, guard Andre Miller and forward Drew Gooden, who should help them win a tight playoff game or two.

I think the Wizards can beat the Chicago Bulls in the first round. They are leading the best-of-seven series, two games to none. If they win twice more, they may be ready to surprise someone in the second round. I’m not predicting a championship, but watch out for the Wizards.

Three-peat: The Miami Heat has won the last two NBA championships and is looking for a third straight — a “three-peat.” It will be tough. The Heat, of course, is led by LeBron James, the best all-around basketball player on the planet. James is as close to a one-man team as anyone in the NBA.

He might have to be. The rest of the Miami team is getting old. All-Star guard Dwyane Wade is 32 years old, and several other key performers — Ray Allen (38), Chris Andersen (35) and Shane Battier (35) — are even older. Still, the Heat should have enough talent to at least win the East.

The Wild West: The NBA’s Western Conference is packed with good teams. Seven teams in the West won 50 or more games during the regular season. (Only two teams in the Eastern Conference did that.) So every series in the Western Conference playoffs should be hard-fought and close.

But don’t expect many upsets. Only two teams in the past 10 years that did not have one of the three best win-loss records in their conference during the regular season made it to the finals. And those two teams — the Boston Celtics in 2010 and the Dallas Mavericks in 2006 — had the fourth-best record in their conference.

The National Hockey League playoffs have a lot more upsets. Nine of the last 20 teams to make the NHL Finals were seeded, or ranked, fourth or lower before the playoffs began. (The teams with the best regular-­season records initially compete against the playoff teams that had the worst records.)

So chances are good that the winner in the Western Conference will be the San Antonio Spurs, the Oklahoma City Thunder or the Los Angeles Clippers. And chances are they will play the Miami Heat.

But watch out for the Wizards.

Bowen writes the sports opinion column for KidsPost. He is the author of 19 sports books for kids including six basketball books.

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