As if they needed a reminder, the Wizards saw firsthand on Wednesday night just how much can change in a short period of time in the Eastern Conference playoff race where just two games separate the No. 3 and No. 6 teams.
That No. 6 team is now your Washington Wizards, who began the day in fourth place but lost their first game in four days on the same night both the Cavs and Sixers won theirs.
The Wizards lost to the Spurs on Wednesday and managed only 90 points, their fewest since Jan. 22. It was a lackluster performance in a game the Wizards needed to treat with urgency.
The Spurs sure did.
"We've gotta have a better mentality coming into games," guard Bradley Beal said. "The Spurs were fighting for playoff seeding just like we were."
The Wizards have now lost six of their last 10, yet all those games have come against teams currently holding playoff spots. Considering John Wall reamins out with a left knee injury, it's hard to fault them too much when they are staying afloat just fine in the big picture.
The problem is that the closer they get to the end of the season, the more these losses are magnified. They amount to missed opportunities, some bigger than others.
That was not lost on Beal, who considered the alternative. If the Wizards had beaten the Spurs, they would be sitting in fourth, two spots higher, and just a game-and-a-half out of third.
"Every time we have a chance to move up, we take two steps back," Beal lamented.
The Wizards are in a high stakes part of the standings where plenty is in the balance. They are fighting for home court advantage, something they would get in the third or fourth spots. And who they match up with will be paramount.
By falling to sixth, the Wizards are currently in line to play the Cleveland Cavaliers. Though the Pacers and Sixers are also good teams, they don't have LeBron James. Avoiding him and the Cavs would be ideal for the Wizards.
Beal has even bigger worries than that. He noted after the loss in San Antonio that they could fall even further if they aren't careful. They are now just a game-and-a-half up on the seventh-place Heat.
"We've gotta realize what's at stake, man. The way we're going, we could keep dropping and mess around and be eighth. We've gotta do whatever it takes to win," he said.
The Wizards should be fine, if the previous two months are any indication. But Wednesday night was another example of how precarious things are for them this season in the tightly-packed Eastern Conference.
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What: Washington Capitals vs. Detroit Red Wings
Where: Little Caesars Arena, Detroit, Mich.
When: 7:30 p.m. ET
How to Watch: Capitals-Red Wings will be broadcast on NBCSN.
Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals-Red Wings game on NBC Sports' live stream page.
WHEN IS THE CAPITALS-RED WINGS GAME?
The Capitals (42-24-7) take on the Red Wings (27-35-11) Thursday, March 22 at 7:30 p.m. ET in Detroit.
WHAT CHANNEL IS THE CAPITALS-RED WINGS GAME ON?
The Capitals-Red Wings game will be broadcast on NBCSN. Coverage kicks off on NBC Sports Washington with Capitals FaceOff at 6:30 p.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 7:00 p.m. Check back with NBC Sports Washington after the game for Caps Extra and Caps Overtime at 10:30 p.m. for postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)
6:30 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
7:00 p.m. — Caps GameTime
7:30 p.m. — Capitals at Red Wings (on NBCSN)
10:00 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:30 p.m. — Caps Overtime
WHAT ARE THE PROJECTED LINES FOR THE CAPITALS-RED WINGS GAME?
Here are the projected lines for the Caps-Red Wings game:
Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Tom Wilson
Andre Burakovsky - Lars Eller - T.J. Oshie
Jakub Vrana - Travis Boyd - Brett Connolly
Chandler Stephenson - Jay Beagle - Devante Smith-Pelly
Michal Kempny - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik - Christian Djoos
Philipp Grubauer starts with Braden Holtby as backup
Scratches: Evgeny Kuznetsov (upper body injury), Alex Chiasson, Jakub Jerabek
WHERE CAN I STREAM THE CAPITALS-RED WINGS GAME?
You can watch the Capitals-Red Wings game on NBC Sports' live stream page.
CAPITALS-RED WINGS OPEN THREAD
Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans.
For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.