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Looking back at the last time the Wizards and Hawks met in the NBA Playoffs

Looking back at the last time the Wizards and Hawks met in the NBA Playoffs

By now many D.C. sports fans can tell you all about the city's drought of making the semifinals of a major sports league.

Neither the Wizards, Nationals, Redskins or Capitals have made the final four of their respective league since the Caps were swept in the Stanley Cup Finals in 1998.

That is the longest wait of any North American city with at least three teams in the big four leagues (NBA, MLB, NFL, NHL).

That, though, is not the only amazing part to note. No, it's how close those teams have gotten and how epic their downfalls were. Between Dan Turk fumbling the snap, the Capitals being 100 seconds away and the Nationals having a six-run lead in Game 5, D.C. sports fans have been through a lot.

One of the most memorable oh-so-close downfalls came the last time the Wizards were in the playoffs when they lost to the Atlanta Hawks in the second round two years ago. At times that spring, the Wizards looked like they were going to break through D.C.'s semifinals slump.

Instead, the Wizards became the first team in NBA history to lose a playoff series on a replay. Now the Wizards are matched up again with the Hawks, this time in the first round and this time with homecourt advantage.

Let's take a look back at that series from two years ago and its most memorable moments...

Wall's injury in Game 1 

The Wizards won Game 1 in Atlanta, but it was a Pyrrhic victory, as late in the first half All-Star point guard John Wall landed on his left wrist while attempting a fastbreak layup. Jeff Teague of the Hawks got under Wall and affected his fall. The result was five non-displaced fractures in Wall's wrist, which forced him to miss the next three games.

Here is a replay of the injury, one that Wall has not forgotten about:

Beal steps up

The Wizards would lose two of the three games they played without Wall, but in his place they saw 21-year-old Bradley Beal take his game to a new level. In those three games he averaged 23.7 points and 7.3 assists. That was capped by a Game 4 performance of 34 points, seven assists, six rebounds, three steals and a block, albeit in a loss. He ended up averaged 25.2 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.0 assists in the series and along the way looked like a future superstar.

[RELATED: What Wizards will need to beat Hawks in playoffs]

'I called game'

This was the best moment of the series for the Wizards. In Game 3 as they continued to play without Wall, future Hall of Famer Paul Pierce sank he Hawks with a buzzer-beater. He put it in off the backboard on a fadeaway long-two over three Hawks defenders. It was an amazing shot and even better was his quote afterwards. When asked by ESPN's Chris Broussard if he called bank, Pierce replied with "I called game" and walked off to add effect.

Pierce hits big shot, Hawks respond

Pierce would hit another clutch shot in Game 5 in Atlanta. With the Wizards down two points, Pierce knocked down a three with 8.3 seconds to go. That gave the Wizards the lead.

The Hawks, though, would respond with this shot from Al Horford to win it:

Heroic shot turns to heartbreak

Okay, this is where the true D.C. sports sadness comes in. Pierce nearly had another buzzer-beater, this one from three and to send the game into overtime. Pierce swished a fadeaway three from near the corner and the Verizon Center went nuts. Super chef Jose Andres famously celebrated with Pierce right after it went in. But a closer look at the replay revealed that Pierce didn't get the shot off in time. The series, the season and Pierce's Wizards' career were all over in epic fashion. And, again, no team had ever lost this way before.

We understand if you don't want to watch this again, but if it's not too soon, here you go:

[RELATED: The Wizards had the Hawks' number during regular season]

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Road ahead suggests a wild finish in Eastern Conference playoff race

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Road ahead suggests a wild finish in Eastern Conference playoff race

The Eastern Conference standings are so closely bunched as of today that the third-place Cleveland Cavaliers are only 1 1/2 games ahead of the sixth-place Philadelphia 76ers. With roughly a dozen games remaining for each NBA team, much can and likely will change over the next several weeks.

That is common for this time of the year, but a closer look suggests we could be in for some chaos in the final stretch. There are lopsided remaining schedules and impending personnel changes which could all contribute to one of the wildest regular season finishes in recent memory.

The Wizards are smack dab in the middle of the East playoff race and have their own circumstances to navigate. Let's take a team-by-team look at the middle of the Eastern Conference playoff picture, knowing the top two seeds are all but locked up by the Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics...


3. Cleveland Cavaliers (41-29, 12 games left)

Monday was a crazy day for the Cavaliers. First, they announced their head coach Tyronn Lue is taking a leave of absence to deal with an undiagnosed health issue. He will be replaced by associate head coach Larry Drew in the interim as he hopes to heal up before the playoffs.

Then, news broke they were getting Kevin Love back from a broken wrist after missing 21 games. Love returned to put up 18 points, seven rebounds, four assists and two blocks in a big win over the Milwaukee Bucks. 

The Cavaliers will be without their coach for an undefined period of time, but now have their second-best player back on the court. That makes their final part of the season extra fascinating.

The Cavs are the team to watch of this group. Even though this season has been filled with turmoil, they still have LeBron James. He and Love have helped form the core of the last three Eastern Conference champion teams. If they pick things up, it's not crazy to consider them among the favorites to get out of the East again.


4. Indiana Pacers (41-30, 11 games left)

The Pacers are mostly healthy as they only feature a slew of minor injuries to big men Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis. But Indiana's remaining schedule is unusually tough and it could make the difference in where they end up.

With only 11 games remaining, the Pacers still have to play the first-place Toronto Raptors once and the Golden State Warriors twice. Six of their last eight games will be on the road. They also see the Heat, Pelicans, Nuggets and Clippers.

The Clippers are currently ninth in the West and battling to make the playoffs. The Pacers will play them twice.

Keep in mind the Wizards own the season series over Indiana and will have a playoff seeding tiebreaker if they end up with the same record. Also worth noting is the Pacers have been much better at home (24-13) than on the road (17-17) this season.


5. Washington Wizards (40-30, 12 games left)

Though the Wizards' schedule is finally letting up soon from the 13 straight playoff teams stretch they have had to endure dating back to February, they too have a tough road ahead. The Wizards still have to play the Spurs (twice), Rockets, Cavaliers, Celtics and Nuggets. Four of their last six games are on the road and they have three back-to-back sets in their final seven games.

That's brutal. They may not have to see the defending champions twice like Indiana does, but the Wizards don't exactly have it easy.

The Wizards will, however, get John Wall back at some point. The five-time All-Star is slowly but surely working his way back and could participate in a full practice by the end of the week. Ideally they will get some games under his belt before the playoffs, but any time an All-NBA player is coming back to your team it's a good thing.

The problem is that there is little room for error in the standings and head coach Scott Brooks will have to reinsert Wall into the lineup during a tough schedule and while Wall is on a minutes restriction. It will be a tricky task to balance his lineups. 


6. Philadelphia 76ers (39-30, 13 games left)

The Sixers may have the most ideal road ahead of these four teams, at least in terms of their schedule. They still have the Timberwolves, Nuggets, Cavs and Bucks. But none of those teams are the juggernauts that Golden State, Houston and Toronto are. And of their final 13 games, the Sixers will play nine against teams outside of the playoff picture.

Philly also does not have to reincorporate a major piece into their rotation, like the Cavs do with Love and the Wizards with Wall. Their biggest injury is to Markelle Fultz, the 2017 No. 1 overall pick. If he does return this season, it will likely be in a minimal role, at least to start.

What could work against the Sixers is their inexperience and recent struggles against good teams. The Sixers are relying on very young players who have never been here before to carry the way. And since Valentine's Day, Philly has just one win against a team above the .500 mark, when they beat the Cavs on March 1. During those 14 games since Feb. 14, they have beaten up on the bad teams but lost to the Wizards, Bucks, Pacers and Heat (twice), basically all the teams surrounding them in the standings. 

Philly also lost their season series against the Cavs and Pacers, tied with the Wizards and are down 2-1 against the Bucks with one game to go. They may go to the finish line without a playoff tiebreaker against all the teams they would want one against.

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Oklahoma star freshman Trae Young to enter NBA Draft

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Oklahoma star freshman Trae Young to enter NBA Draft

After a sensational freshman season at the University of Oklahoma, point guard Trae Young plans to enter the 2018 NBA Draft, according to a report by ESPN.

Young will be one of the most fascinating prospects in this class given the extreme highs and lows of his one college season. He vaulted into the top 10 in most mock drafts after beginning his freshman year on fire, but then began to slip over the final months as his shooting percentage dropped.


Right now the Wizards are lined up to be in the late teens, so it's unlikely he falls to their range. But at this point it's difficult to predict where he will go, whether that is top five or later in the lottery.

It really could go either way. Some teams may see him as a Steph Curry-like scorer who can hit shots from unusually deep range. There were certainly times where Young backed up those comparisons.

Teams could see his flaws as a result of opposing defenses honing in on him because they could at the college level. In the NBA he may have more space and therefore be able to play to his strengths.


Or, teams could look at the fact he shot 36.1 percent from three on a whopping 10.2 attempts per game as a sign he is a chucker. He also led the nation in turnovers, commiting 24 more than the next guy. Young averaged 5.2 giveaways per game.

While Curry is the best-case scenario, Jimmer Fredette may be the worst-case. Fredette was the 10th overall pick in 2011 and now plays in China. 

Young will be an intriguing prospect in the draft because the ceiling is high and the basement is low. 

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