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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...

ATLANTA HAWKS
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.

MILWAUKEE BUCKS
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]

INDIANA PACERS
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.

MIAMI HEAT
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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Kobe Bryant posthumously highlights loaded 2020 Basketball Hall of Fame class

Kobe Bryant posthumously highlights loaded 2020 Basketball Hall of Fame class

Kobe Bryant’s resume has yet another entry to prove his greatness: He’s now, officially, a Hall of Famer.

And he’s got plenty of elite company in the 2020 class, one that may be as glitzy as any.

Bryant and fellow NBA greats Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett headlined a nine-person group announced Saturday as this year’s class of enshrinees into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

They all got into the Hall in their first year of eligibility, as did WNBA great Tamika Catchings. Two-time NBA champion coach Rudy Tomjanovich finally got his call, as did longtime Baylor women’s coach Kim Mulkey, 1,000-game winner Barbara Stevens of Bentley and three-time Final Four coach Eddie Sutton.

They were the eight finalists who were announced in February, and the panel of 24 voters who were tasked to decide who merited selection wound up choosing them all. Also headed to the Hall this year: former FIBA Secretary General Patrick Baumann, selected as a direct-elect by the international committee.

“He was the head of FIBA and this was a way to honor him,” Hall of Fame Chairman and enshrinee Jerry Colangelo said. “It was a special thing done through that committee.”

Bryant died in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26, about three weeks before the Hall of Fame said -- as if there was going to be any doubt -- that he was a finalist. Duncan and Garnett were also widely perceived to be locks to be part of this class; they were both 15-time NBA All-Stars, and Bryant was an 18-time selection.

Bryant's death has been part of a jarring start of the year for basketball: Commissioner Emeritus David Stern died on Jan. 1, Bryant and his daughter Gianna were among nine who died in the crash in late January, and the NBA shut down March 11 as the coronavirus pandemic began to grip the U.S.

“Obviously, we wish that he was here with us to celebrate," Vanessa Bryant, Kobe's wife, said on the ESPN broadcast of the class announcement. “But it’s definitely the peak of his NBA career and every accomplishment that he had as an athlete was a steppingstone to be here. So we’re incredibly proud of him."

Bryant was also a five-time champion with the Los Angeles Lakers, just as Duncan was with the San Antonio Spurs.

“This is an incredibly special class, for many reasons,” Colangelo said.

Garnett is the only player in NBA history with at least 25,000 points, 10,000 rebounds, 5,000 assists, 1,500 blocks and 1,500 steals. He also was part of Boston's 2008 NBA title.

“This is the culmination," Garnett said. “All those hours ... this is what you do it for, right here. To be able to be called ‘Hall of Famer' is everything."

Catchings was a 10-time WNBA All-Star and four-time Olympic gold medalist. Tomjanovich, who had overwhelming support from NBA peers who couldn’t understand why it took so long for his selection, was a five-time All-Star as a player, guided Houston to back-to-back titles and took the 2000 U.S. Olympic team to a gold medal.

Mulkey has three NCAA titles as a coach, won two others as a player and had Baylor in position to vie for another championship this season had the global coronavirus pandemic not forced the shutdown of virtually every sport around the globe. Stevens has coached for 43 years and is a five-time Division II coach of the year. Sutton won more than 800 games in nearly four decades, and Baumann was one of the most powerful voices in international basketball until his death in 2018.

The enshrinement ceremony in Springfield, Massachusetts, is scheduled for Aug. 29. Should the pandemic force a delay, there is a tentative plan for an October ceremony as well.

For this year, largely because of the star power of this class, the Hall chose to enact a one-year suspension of direct elections from the Veteran’s, Women’s Veteran’s, Early African-American Pioneers and Contributors categories.

With Bryant, Duncan and Garnett as perhaps the top NBA trio to ever enter simultaneously, the Hall wanted to make sure that no enshrinee would be overlooked.

“We didn’t need to water it down,” Colangelo said. “Next year is another year for many.”

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How to Watch Wizards vs. Pacers NBA 2K20 simulation and Bradley Beal's 55-point game vs. Bucks

How to Watch Wizards vs. Pacers NBA 2K20 simulation and Bradley Beal's 55-point game vs. Bucks

Sunday night was supposed to feature another exciting Wizard’s game against the Indiana Pacers. However, because the NBA season remains suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, games are not being played as planned. 

Although fans can’t tune into Wizards games in a traditional sense, just like everything else in the world right now, there is a virtual alternative. The Wizards vs. Pacers game will still go on as planned but will be an NBA 2K20 video game simulation. 

This format allows fans to watch a broadcast of the video game where the computer has control. Additionally, the game will feature commentary from NBC Sports Washington’s Wizards experts.

The Wizards fun continues after the game ends, as there is a replay of a game against the Bucks from earlier this season when Bradley Beal hit 55 points in his second of back-to-back 50-points games.

Here's everything you need to join the Wizards action on Sunday night. 

When: 

Sunday, April 5 at 7 PM ET

Where:

  • NBC Sports Washington (channel finder
  • Any of our 24/7 authenticated streaming platforms
  • Monumental Sports Network via its website www.monumentalsportsnetwork.com or via any of its available apps on iOS, Android, Roku, Apple TV, Fire TV, and Xbox.

Broadcast schedule

07:00 PM: NBA 2K20 Simulation: Wizards @ Indiana Pacers (P)

08:00 PM: NBA Classics: Milwaukee Bucks @ Wizards (R)

10:30 PM: NBA 2K20 Simulation: Wizards @ Indiana Pacers (R)

11:30 PM: NBA Classics: Brooklyn Nets @ Wizards (R)

Starting lineups

Wizards: TBD
Pacers: TBD

If you miss the NBA basketball season like all do, tune into NBC Sports Washington on Sunday night to experience the best alternative to a live game. 

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