The mid-to-top order of the Eastern Conference holds three teams that could be the demise or success of the Wizards. If the season ended right now, Washington, a now six-seed, will face the third-seeded Cleveland Cavaliers.
For those who can remember, the Washington Wizards have faced Cleveland in the first round of the playoffs before during the Gilbert Arenas-era. The infamous Game 6 loss still sticks in many fans minds as Arenas was at the free throw line about to shoot two, when Lebron James whispered “if you miss you’re going home”. Arenas shook his head and did his ritual before shooting……and missed both free throws.
Here we are about a good 12 years later, where history could repeat itself. Or can it?
Although that is the current seeding, the Philadelphia 76ers (four-seed) and the Indiana Pacers (five-seed) aren’t far behind. Between all four teams, there’s about a game apiece between them meaning the seeding could change before the season is over.
Indiana Pacers (WAS won season series 2-1)
It goes without saying Indiana as their first round opponent would be ideal due to the fact in the three meetings, Washington played without John Wall and managed two wins. Granted, the Pacers won one of the games but only by three points. Washington outscored Indiana 30-18 in the fourth quarter.
In their last meeting, four out of five starters scored in double figures and the bench came through with some decent help, mostly Kelly Oubre, Jr. Indiana had major turnover issues with 15 resulting in 26 points for the Wizards.
Washington leading with heavy momentum early on can lead to a positive playoff series.
The prediction wouldn’t be a four-game sweep, but possibly a five or six-game win in favor of Washington.
Philadelphia 76ers (Season series tied 2-2)
Only one game this series was with point guard Wall, which they won. The following two games, center Joel Embiid and guard Ben Simmons dominated leaving Washington in despair. The Wizards ended up tying the series led by Bradley Beal and Otto Porter, Jr. and a high 37-point scoring second quarter.
The biggest issue for Washington would be Embiid, Simmons and the outside scoring of Philly. Embiid has the power to score and grab boards over any center in the league especially Wizards’ centers Marcin Gortat and Ian Mahinmi. Simmons is a well-rounded guard that can score, rebound, dish out assists and defend the ball. If they can’t stop those two and defend the 3-point shooting they’re in for a battle.
Prediction in this playoff series is a tie between Washington in seven or Philly in six.
Cleveland Cavaliers (CLE leads season series 2-1)
The toughest opponent in the first round, which could lead to a sweep of Washington. Looking back at the three meetings, the Wizards have lost and won by at most eight points. The big key in this match-up is forcing LeBron James to have to carry the Cavs on his back eliminating all other factors.
If Washington can play their game with Wall back in the lineup, they surely have a chance to succeed. Although the Wizards won their most recent meeting, Cleveland had four new players to break in: Larry Nance, Jr., George Hill, Rodney Hood and Jordan Clarkson. Looking at it a seven-point loss wasn’t all that bad for the Cavs and Washington needs to look back at that in time for their upcoming April 5 meeting.
And also there’s a huge possibility the Wizards will have their starting point guard by April, nothing definite as of yet.
If Washington wants to avoid a first round exit, it’s best they win more games than they lose or win more games than Philly and/or Indiana to avoid seeing Cleveland first.
Cleveland is a tough opponent in the Eastern Conference and a prediction of a sweep or a five-game loss in favor of the Cavs is a huge occurrence.