The earliest the Wizards will begin their second-round series is Sunday, with Game 1 at the Atlanta Hawks or at home vs. the Brooklyn Nets, but having the rest of this week off to get healthier and reform their game plan only can help. They'll have time to prepare while those two teams will be consumed with each other.
The Wizards destroyed the Toronto Raptors in four games, closing out their series over the weekend. They had Monday off and will resume practice today.
"I think it does send a message that you can’t take Washington lightly," Paul Pierce said of how dominant his team was after a 125-94 in Game 4. "We lost 3-0 to Toronto (in the regular season). We also lost 3-1 to Atlanta. And we got blown out a couple times by Brooklyn. …They're going to see a different ballclub than they saw in the regular season."
Pierce wasn't with the Wizards last season when they advanced to the second round before losing in six games to the No. 1 seed Indiana Pacers. This version is clearly better and more versatile in part because of his presence.
Pierce rested a lot at the end of the regular season so his right knee, which had been bruised around midseason, could get better. Bradley Beal bumped his right knee in Game 3 with Toronto and played through the bruise to score a game-high 23 points Sunday. John Wall has had soreness in his right knee and both ankles and Garrett Temple was inactive for the first round because of a right hamstring strain.
Drew Gooden, in the playoffs for the sixth year of his 13-year career, has been to the NBA Finals. The wait can help but it also can backfire.
"It's tough to say until Game 1," Gooden said of the East semis. "I could sit here and say the more rest we have the better for Game 1 but that's not actually true. I've seen guys sweep a series, sitting around for a week and lose Game 1 whether it's at home or away. We don't want to be too sluggish at the same time so it's a happy medium of having rest and being ready to play."
Wall shot about 38% but averaged 12.5 assists vs. Toronto. The pace he set with the offense and defensive ball pressure were too much to handle. It's a better start for him than he had last season when the Wizards upset the Chicago Bulls in five games in the first round.
"We want to get to the Eastern Conference finals but we got to take it one game at a time, each round at a time. It’s great to get this out the way and get a bit of rest while other guys are playing," Wall said. "We didn't finish the season as well as we wanted to. A lot of people didn't have us favored in this series because we didn't beat them in the regular season. We've showed a different mind set during the playoffs."