Just in case you’ve forgotten: The Wizards are currently 26-28, the 19th-best team in the Eastern Conference. That doesn’t mean they aren’t still in the mix to make the playoffs or a possible playoff series, but it does mean that they are not, in fact, among the best teams in their conference.
But if there’s one thing that the Wizards have learned in the second half of the 2018-19 season — in addition to learning the value of “finishing strong” during their aforementioned losing streak — it’s that small things add up to big things. For instance, everyone in the NBA must be excited that the Washington Wizards, who blew away the Boston Celtics in Friday’s pivotal matchup between their rivals, are also scheduled to meet the Houston Rockets in just two weeks. It’s tough to be a road warrior when you don’t like where you’re playing and your travel plans can be affected by the weather.
One would think that playing at home against the Celtics and at home against the Rockets would be good for the Wizards. They’re going to need all the help they can get in those series’ first round matchups, which are surely going to be tough and long and, again, could be affected by weather.
But who cares? The Wizards beat the Celtics again. And they lead the Rockets in the Northwest Division (via conference record), though they are tied with them in the standings. The Indiana Pacers, who are the fifth-worst team in the league (but have the most wins in the Eastern Conference), should also be part of the mix, as should the Brooklyn Nets.
They should all be part of the mix. But at the time of writing, the Wizards are just “three games behind the Boston Celtics for sixth place in the Eastern Conference standings,” per ESPN Stats & Info. And consider this: The Wizards have an 11-6 record at home this season, and they are 27-22 on the road. If home-road splits alone did not matter for playoff seeding, then it would not have mattered if the Wizards were 0-24 on the road. Their recent woe is their own creation.
That this trend came full circle Friday night speaks to the resilience and perseverance of the Wizards. The 15-15 Wizards were starting to fade away at the start of the second half, though, after another long funk and a dismal end to the game with Isaiah Thomas unavailable. Then, suddenly, the Celtics game kicked into gear, and suddenly the Wizards looked determined.
It’s simply that simple. Look at the Washington Wizards this year: They’re a four-win team over their last 10 games. They’re outscored by an average of more than eight points per game over that stretch, while losing four games by six points or fewer. But they’re two wins better than where they were at this point last season (4-20). They’re playing better defense and they’re holding opponents to their lowest scoring average of the season. They’re playing hard, they’re confident and they’re together.
This is one of the most successful closers teams in NBA history. The Wizards aren’t at the playoffs yet, and they aren’t even in the playoffs yet. But the Washington Wizards should be judged by what they’ve done since the break, not what they did after it.