With the Wizards in a playoff push for the first time in six years, Bradley Beal can’t help but regularly check out the standings on the ESPN SportsCenter App on his phone. Beal checks it every night as the Wizards jostle for position in the weakened but still competitive Eastern Conference.
Currently in fifth place, the Wizards trail Toronto by 2 ½ games for third, Chicago by two games for fourth and have a one-game lead over sixth-place Brooklyn.
“I hope other teams lose ahead of us, so that hopefully we can move up,” Beal said with a smile, before the Wizards (31-29) hosted the Utah Jazz on Wednesday at Verizon Center. “Like during this time of the month, this time of the year, you definitely have to pay attention to it. Now we’re playing for seeds. Looks like we have a pretty good chance of making the playoffs as long as we continue to win. At the same time, we’re playing for the third seed and it’s pretty much up for grabs.”
The Wizards have 22 games remaining and will be without Nene for another five weeks. But they have a fairly favorable schedule ahead with just one opponent with a winning record – Miami – over the next seven games.
Marcin Gortat hasn’t been in position to make the playoffs since getting traded from Orlando to Phoenix three seasons ago but said he has basically ignored paying attention where the Wizards stand.
“I probably checked the standings three times this year. The third time was actually accidentally. I walked into the room and ESPN was showing the standings,” Gortat said. “I don’t even know what number of the game we played today. I’m just living day to day. It’s so many games and the season is so long, I would lose my mind if I looked every time at the standings. Who’s where? How many games we’ve got? It ain’t changing anything. We’ve still got to come in and win the game.”
The Jazz defeated the Wizards, 104-101, when the teams met on Jan. 25 at Energy Solutions Arena. Trevor Ariza scored a team-high 23 points but missed a tying three-pointer late in the game. Beal and John Wall combined to score just 27 points but shot 9 of 29 from the floor.
“We know they’re a talented team,” Wall said. “They started their season without their point guard [Trey Burke], so we know it was frustrating for those guys losing a lot of games, so since he came around, they’ve basically been playing .500 basketball. We know what happened to us when we played down there in Utah. We know we got to come out and play the way we’ve been playing, we’re scoring the ball well but we got to get back to playing defense.”
(TV: Comcast SportsNet. Radio: WFED-1500).
Here’s some reading to help you get ready for the game: