Usually it's a good thing for the Wizards and their fans when the Cavaliers lose, but Cleveland's 103-74 defeat to the San Antonio Spurs on Monday night had quite the domino effect in the Eastern Conference standings.
By losing, the Cavs dropped from the No. 1 seed to the No. 2 seed, allowing the Boston Celtics to take over the top spot with eight games left for them to play and nine games for Cleveland. Why should the Wizards care? Well, if the playoffs began today the Wizards would be third in the East, meaning if they advanced to the second round they would likely face the defending-champion Cavaliers, instead of the Celtics.
To get out of the East and reach the Finals, the Wizards - or any other team for that matter - would almost certainly have to get through Cleveland on the way. And no matter what the standings say, or how vulnerable the Cavaliers look right now, they remain the team to beat. They have LeBron James, the best player in basketball, two other stars in Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, and of course the championship pedigree. Without injuries in the Finals two years ago, they could be two-time defending champs at this point.
Just because the Cavs look shaky right now, doesn't mean they will be in a month when the second round of the playoffs takes place. There are still two weeks left in the regular season and the first round takes almost two weeks to decide. The Cavaliers have plenty of time.
If the Cavs remain in the second spot, it's an easy argument to make that the Wizards could prefer slipping to the fourth seed instead of staying in third. That way they could take their chances against the Celtics or Raptors in the second round rather than the Cavs. Both of those teams are good, but they aren't anything close to the Cavs when it comes to a playoff series.
The Wizards have nine games left themselves and are just a half-game up on the Raptors in third. A lot can happen from here on out, but the prospects of seeing the Cavs earlier than the Wizards need to is already a scary proposition.