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Morning tip: This is why Wizards still like chances in East

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Morning tip: This is why Wizards still like chances in East

As the East stands, the Wizards are in 10th place at 23-28 but below the Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors the conference still is up for grabs. 

Usually, a team or two catches fire after the All-Star break -- the trade deadline is Thursday at 3 p.m. -- and another team or two completely bottoms out to play their way out of the playoff picture.

This is where all nine teams above them stand and their road maps going forward:

1. Cavaliers: 30 games left. Only three games separate them from the second team so this seed isn't secured by any stretch. They have a murderous schedule out of the break, vs. Bulls, at Thunder, vs. Pistons, vs. Hornets, at Raptors, at Wizards, vs. Pacers, vs. Wizards, vs. Celtics and vs. Grizzlies. Any slippage or small losing streak means they won't be able to rest LeBron James, 31, like they did at the end of the regular season last year to ready for the playoffs.

2. Raptors: 30 games left. They've still got the Knicks and Nets twice, a Feb. 26 meeting with the Cavs which will determine who wins the season series which is crucial for seeding in the event of a tie and two games left vs. the Celtics who they've already beaten twice. They've got an easier path than the Cavs to end the season. They have a stretch beginning Feb. 21 when 10 of 12 games are at Air Canada Centre.

MORE WIZARDS: GRADING GARRETT TEMPLE

3. Celtics: 27 games left. Most are against Western Conference teams (14) and they've still got games with the Pacers and Hawks who have each beaten them twice in as many meetings. They have the Raptors twice (0-2 season series), the Thunder, Warriors and Cavs remaining. They also have a five-game swing out West that begins March 26 that can be back-breaking in a close race or put them over the top. And that comes just after a stretch of 3 of 4 games on the road.

4. Hawks: 27 games left. The first five games out of the break are at Phillips Arena, including a game with the Warriors. Immediately after that, there's a five-game road swing, including at the Warriors, Clippers and Raptors. They're just 16-11 at home and sub-.500 on the road. There are three meetings on tap with the Wizards, who can basically make up almost all of their ground alone with Atlanta.

5. Heat: 29 games left. Three with the Bulls (1-0), two vs. Pistons (0-2), vs. Wizards (1-2), vs. Pacers (1-2), Warriors (0-1), Spurs (0-1), at Celtics twice (0-1) and at Raptors (1-2). This is where the Heat ran out of gas last season with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh out of the lineup. Bosh, who missed the All-Star Game with a calf strain, is facing another blood clot scare that shut him down late last year. 

6. Pacers: 29 games left. They return from the break with a three-game road trip starting at the Thunder then have six of seven on the road, including at Cavs, Hornets, Wizards, Mavs and Hawks which is then followed by a three-game homestand vs. the Celtics, Raptors and Thunder. This isn't a good road team (11-16) that was .500 in its last 10 games.

7. Bulls: 30 games left. They've dropped six of their last seven going into the break and come back at the Cavs and home against the Raptors. They're still without their best player, Jimmy Butler (knee) for a few more weeks. The Wizards are in Chicago on Feb. 24, but relatively speaking they don't have a monster schedule. They have one more meeting each with the Cavs, Wizards and Raptors, two with the Hawks and Rockets and three with the Heat.  

8. Hornets: 29 games left. This is a loose grip on a playoff spot because a six-game road trip begins now, ending with the Cavs, Pacers and Hawks for a team that's 8-17 away from Time Warner Cable Arena. Then there are home games vs. the Pacers, Pistons, Rockets, Mavs and Spurs followed by road games with the Cavs, Raptors, Wizards and Celtics. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is out again (shoulder tear) while Al Jefferson (knee) is out but could be close to returning.

9. Pistons: 28 games left. A lot of tough road games remain, at the Wizards (twice), Cavs (twice), Spurs, Mavs and Hornets. There also two more meetings with the Hawks and Heat and one with the Bulls and Raptors. The Pistons have a home game with the Wizards, too, which is more than enough opportunities to make up ground or create separation.

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Wizards vs Blazers featured Moe Harkless' impressive Chappelle Show themed Halloween costume

Wizards vs Blazers featured Moe Harkless' impressive Chappelle Show themed Halloween costume

The Portland Trail Blazers are setting the bar high for NBA Halloween. 

Maurice Harkless made his arrival in style turning a corner dressed as Tyrone Biggums from the American sketch comedy television series "Chapelle's Show." 

But it got better. Bosnia native and seven-footer Jusuf Nurkic turned the corner as Beast from Walt Disney's classic romance film Beauty and the Beast. 

The bar has been set. 

Washington looks for its first win tonight after falling to 0-2 right out of the gate, while Portland aims for a 3-0 start after defeating the Spurs 121-108 Saturday night. 

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Hey Wizards - don't fall for this CJ McCollum crossover

Hey Wizards - don't fall for this CJ McCollum crossover

Here's an important thing for the Wizards to avoid when facing off against Portland on Monday night: This CJ McCollum crossover.

As seen in this video by our friends at NBC Sports Northwest, the Trail Blazers' player sent a Spurs defender flying - much to the delight of the Portland bench - with the move.

 

"It wasn't even one of my better crossovers," he said after his team's win. "Honestly, he just reacted."

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