That the Wizards aren't in the playoffs confuses even Nic Batum. They beat his Charlotte Hornets handily Sunday, 113-98, without John Wall and Bradley Beal only playing eight minutes, to even the season series at 2.
"They played great," said Batum to CSNmidatlantic.com. "I think they are a playoff team. That was a playoff team."
That'll be of little consolation to Washington (39-41) which was eliminated from postseason contention two days ago with a loss at the Detroit Pistons. But it speaks to how much they're respected for the talent they do have despite being beset by injuries to almost everyone. In its two losses to Charlotte (46-34), Washington squandered double-digit second-half leads.
Not Ramon Sessions made his third start in a row for Wall (sore right knee) and had 15 points, 11 assists, five rebounds and just one turnover for the second time. Marcin Gortat made 10 of 11 shots for game highs of 21 points and 13 rebounds. There were seven players scoring in double figures with Beal being the only starter to not reach that mark because he left following just eight minutes in the first half (sore pelvis).
"We still have something to play for. I told them when we got eliminated, 'Let's see if we can get to .500," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. "Let's take pride. We play this game because it's fun. I coach this game because it's fun. We still have two games (left). Then we can work to correct the wrongs that we'll all look at as soon as the season is over with and where we need to go and how we need to change."
The Wizards play at the Brooklyn Nets on Monday, will be off Tuesday and close the season Wednesday vs. the Atlanta Hawks at Verizon Center.
"We're definitely talented enough but talent down't win you necessarily basketball games," said Jared Dudley, who had 11 points on 4 of 7 shots to go with seven rebounds, four steals, three assists and two blocks. "You see we beat a team right now, a playoff team without John so it shows the capability of this team but a little too late."
The Wizards have become so dependent on Wall, as they were on Nene before the point guard's emergence, that they can freeze up when he checks out of games. They've had no choice but to make this work without him and to prevent him from wearing down late in seasons like this some of the pressure has to be taken off.
In each of the last two playoff runs, Wall wasn't allowed to get much off time because the Wizards always were battling for playoff position.
"John, as good as he is passing, if you just rely on one person it's very difficult," said Dudley. "These next couple of games and even next season, whoever will be back, you can't just rely on one ball-handler."