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Early look at Wizards' potential opponents in 2017 NBA Playoffs: who should they prefer?

Early look at Wizards' potential opponents in 2017 NBA Playoffs: who should they prefer?

The Wizards officially clinched their spot in the 2017 NBA Playoffs on Friday night, so now what? Well, there are still 10 games to go and a lot of room for movement in the Eastern Conference. But with the Wizards in third place currently, here is a look at some teams they could potentially meet in the first round next month...

2016-17 record: 37-35
Current seed: 5
Wizards' head-to-head record: 3-1

The Wizards have handled the Hawks well, having won three straight matchups following their defeat on opening night in Atlanta. There is also the revenge factor with the Wizards having been eliminated from the playoffs two years ago in a second round series that saw John Wall break his wrist and likely prevent the Wizards from advancing. The Wizards also became the first team in NBA history to lose a playoff series, and therefore have their season end, on a replay call. To meet up with Atlanta would give the Wizards an opportunity for payback. 

Atlanta is also nosediving right now. They have dealt with some injuries to Paul Millsap and Kent Bazore and are currently losers of six straight games. Seeing them in the first round could be playing them at a good time. But they are still very well-coached and have a ton of talent beyond Millsap with Dwight Howard down low and especially with the emergence of Tim Hardaway, Jr.

2016-17 record: 37-35
Current seed: 6
Wizards' head-to-head record: 3-1

The Wizards have had little problem with the Bucks this season, aside from their blowout loss in Milwaukee on Dec. 23. It was in that game that the Wizards thought Giannis Antetokounmpo was a bad sport by running up the score and chasing his career-high. So, the Wizards got him back just three days later with a win in Washington and some choice words after the game to rub it in. That would provide a backstory and some potential animosity and those are always fun things come playoff time.

The Bucks, though, are the hottest team in the NBA this month having won 11 of their last 13. They have Giannis, who is a do-everything monster. And though Jabari Parker is lost for the season, they can still field a formidable lineup with Malcom Brogdon and Khris Middleton, who returned midseason from injury. Greg Monroe, Matthew Dellavadova and Tony Snell are all decent, as well. The question would be whether they have the depth to match up with the Wizards in a seven-game series.

[RELATED: Hawks All-Star to opt out and test free agency]

2016-17 record: 36-36
Current seed: 7
Wizards' head-to-head record: 3-1

The Pacers have star power and playoff experience, but not much else. They have one of the thinnest rosters in the conference despite boasting superstar Paul George and young big man Myles Turner, who looks like a perennial All-Star. They are top heavy and as a result do not look poised to do much damage in the playoffs. They are a solid 25-11 at home, but a hideous 11-25 on the road. That is easily the worst away record of any team currently in either conference's playoff picture.

Like the teams above, the Wizards have matched up favorably with Indiana this season with a 3-1 record in head-to-head meetings. They also have playoff history with Indiana, who knocked them out in the second round three years ago, the first time Wall and Bradley Beal qualified for the postseason. That would present some storylines, and George would be fun to watch for a full series, but the Pacers would have their work cut out for them, for sure.

2016-17 record: 35-37
Current seed: 8
Wizards' head-to-head record: 0-2

Kind of like the Wizards, the Miami Heat are a much, much better team than they were just a few months ago. On Jan. 13 they were 11-30 and appeared headed for the draft lottery, but then they caught fire and won 13 straight. And in the time since that 11-30 mark, they have gone an impressive 24-7. That is tied for the most wins in the NBA during that stretch with the Wizards, Spurs and Warriors and at more than a third of the season, that's no small sample size.

The Heat have already beaten the Wizards twice this season and can be tough to deal with for a variety of reasons. For one, they are very good defensively and boast one of the best rim protectors in basketball in Hassan Whiteside. He's averaging 2.1 blocks per game and leads the league in rebounding at 14.2 per contest. They also have point guard Goran Dragic, who is averaging 20.1 points per game and can get into the lane at will. He has been a real pain for Washington this season with his ability to get past Wall, Beal or whomever the Wizards put on him.

Verdict: Which team should the Wizards prefer?

If the playoffs were to start today, the Wizards would probably like to avoid the Bucks, who are the hottest team and have a bonafide superstar in Giannis. Incidentally, that's who the Wizards are lined up to face right now. A lot can happen in the next three weeks before the playoffs begin, but that does not currently look like a good matchup, even though the Wizards would still have plenty of advantages between their backcourt, experience and depth.

Like the Bucks, Miami is also playing very well right now and have been doing so for longer. They have shown they are much better than their record says they are. There is no doubt they are dangerous. 

The Wizards at this point should prefer either the Pacers or Hawks. The Hawks are fifth and the Pacers seventh, so not much movement would be required for either meeting to happen. But both of those teams seem vulnerable at this point, despite the fact Atlanta may have the most depth of these four teams.

[RELATED: Wizards clinch playoff spot for third time in four years]

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Scott Brooks, Ramon Sessions hoping for best with Tyronn Lue's health issues

USA Today Sports Images

Scott Brooks, Ramon Sessions hoping for best with Tyronn Lue's health issues

As a fellow NBA head coach, Scott Brooks understands what Tyronn Lue of the Cleveland Cavaliers is going through. As his former teammate, Ramon Sessions knows how tough Lue is.

Both members of the Wizards shared their reactions after Monday's practice to the news Lue is stepping away from the Cavs to deal with a health issue. Both expressed hope Lue will not be out long as the NBA continues its trek towards the playoffs.

"All of our thoughts are with him," Brooks said. "You hope that it's nothing serious. Health is the most important [thing]. The game is secondary."


"Prayers out to T-Lue," said Sessions, who played with Lue in Milwaukee. "It's one of those things where you've gotta take care of yourself at the end of the day. Him stepping away is the best thing."

Lue's illness has been a mystery to doctors, according to a statement he released on the Cavaliers' website. He has dealt with chest pains and other symptoms while also struggling to sleep. The hope is that having time off will allow him to get the rest he needs.


Brooks knows firsthand how difficult it is to get sleep during the regular season as a coach.

"You just have to figure out ways to get your rest. Some days are better than others. Sometimes you think after a good win you can have a good night's rest or sometimes it's the opposite. It's just hard to get rest. You're traveling in different timezones. You are emotional after games. You eat late. There are a lot of factors that go into it. We don't have a set schedule every night. I have a good staff and I rely on them," he said.

Lue, 40, will be replaced by associate head coach Larry Drew in the interim. The Cavs happen to be in a tight playoff race with the Wizards and other teams in the Eastern Conference battling for position.

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Wizards Tipoff podcast: Phil Chenier tells stories ahead of his jersey retirement

Associated Press

Wizards Tipoff podcast: Phil Chenier tells stories ahead of his jersey retirement

On the latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast presented by Greenberg and Bederman, host Chase Hughes was joined by Bullets/Wizards legend Phil Chenier ahead of his jersey retirement set for this upcoming weekend on March 23.

Chenier looked back on his playing and broadcasting career and told great stories. He also shared some memories of the 1978 championship as the franchise gets ready to honor its 40th anniversary.

You can listen to the episode right here:

You can download the podcast on Apple Podcasts right here and on Google Play. If you like the show please tell your friends!