Never mind what the calendar says. In the minds of the Washington Wizards and Charlotte Bobcats, Wednesday’s 7 p.m. matchup at Verizon Center marks the first game of the playoffs.
With the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference at stake and, subsequently, diminished odds of facing the two-time defending champion Miami Heat in the first round, the Wizards (40-37) and Bobcats (39-38) have made it no secret that their meeting at Verizon Center will be a physical one.
“It’s really kind of a double game; whoever wins this game is going to win the tiebreaker,” Wizards Coach Randy Wittman said. “I like having these games, being in the spot that we’re in because we’re going to be there in another week and every game is going to be magnified like that. So the more we can get under our belts, facing that type of game I think is important for our guys.”
Following Sunday’s playoff-clinching win against Cleveland, Charlotte guard Gerald Henderson said “we’re going after (Washington). That’s a playoff game,” according to the Charlotte Observer.
The comment caught the ear of Wizards forward Trevor Booker, who said after Wednesday’s morning shootaround that he’s been paying “a little bit” of attention to the bulletin board material.
“We’re very focused,” said Booker, who has averaged 6.4 points while starting in place of Nene for the last 21 games. “They’re saying some things in the paper that they’re coming after us. They’re only one game back so it’s a big game.”
Booker will start at forward in place of Nene, who will be back in uniform and come off the bench for the first time since spraining a knee ligament on Feb. 23. Booker said he isn’t sure how the minutes will be spread among him, Nene and Drew Gooden, who has emerged as a spark off the bench since signing with the Wizards at the end of February but thanks to his increased playing time during the last six weeks, he’s ready for anything.
“It’s all up to the coach,” Booker said. “My confidence is pretty high right now and I feel like I’ve been playing at a high level. But I just hope we get the win tonight.”
(TV: Comcast SportsNet. Radio: WJFK-106.7 MF, WFED-1500 AM).
Here’s some reading to get you prepared for tonight’s big game: