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How the Wizards can make NBA history at Orlando's restart

How the Wizards can make NBA history at Orlando's restart

Through 65 games, NBA teams outside the playoffs have had to be at least three games behind the eighth seed in order to make the postseason. If not, they're done. Or at least that's what the last 20 years have told us. 

No team since the 1999-00 Bucks have overcome a three-game deficit so late in the year and made the playoffs. Milwaukee won 10 of their final 13 games in 2000 to sneak into the playoffs and they eventually pushed the top-seeded Pacers to the brink in the first round. 

44 teams have tried over the last two decades and all of them have failed. 

The Wizards, along with five other teams outside the playoffs entering the NBA restart, were all facing those odds before play was suspended in March. Now, they each have a chance to make history

Luckily for the Wizards, they don't have to make up the 5.5-game gap between them and the Magic in Disney World. They just have to draw within four games of the bottom seed to force a play-in scenario.

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In such a case, Washington would play either the Magic or Nets in a two-game series to earn the right to play Milwaukee in the first round. The Wizards would have to win both games, while Brooklyn or Orlando would only have to win one. 

Whether the Wizards can pull it off remains to be seen. They will be without Davis Bertans and now Bradley Beal is undecided on whether to play in Orlando. On the flip side, the Nets' roster has been depleted by injuries and players opting out and Washington sits six games behind them. 

Few expected the Wizards to make the playoffs this season with John Wall out for the year. Not only do they have a chance to defy those individuals, but they can also make a little history in the process. 

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Three remaining questions for Wizards in NBA's restart as they battle the Thunder

Three remaining questions for Wizards in NBA's restart as they battle the Thunder

The Wizards continue their schedule in Orlando with a battle against Chris Paul, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday at 12:30 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington. Here are three questions for the Wizards as they play their third-to-final game of the season...

Can they get a win?

The Wizards do not have a chance to make the playoffs anymore after losing on Friday night to the Pelicans. It was a disappointing result for the team, although one most of us expected. With no Bradley Beal or Davis Bertans, their odds were long in the first place, and the grading scale has been more about player development, anyways.

But now there is a distinct possibility they leave the bubble without a single win. They went 0-3 in the exhibition schedule and have now lost their first five seeding games. They have three opponents left and they are all teams with top-10 records in the NBA: the Thunder, Celtics and Bucks. A win against any of those teams would qualify as an upset, though they have already beaten two of them this season; the Thunder and Celtics.

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Can Brown be a point guard?

Most of the Wizards' roster questions in Orlando as they pertain to next year fall into gray areas, but one involving Troy Brown Jr. is very specific. Whether he can serve as a back-up point guard in the Wizards' rotation is worth wondering about, as his passing and play-making abilities have been so impressive in the bubble that it seems imperative the Wizards incorporate that part of his game more moving forward. But whether they can maximize those qualities when he's sharing the floor with Beal and John Wall is hard to decipher, as both of them are high-usage players and will need the offense run through them.

Whether Brown can play some point guard behind Wall could determine some of the Wizards' offseason needs and it could have a direct effect on Ish Smith's role, as he currently projects as Wall's back-up. There are, however, two factors to consider in this. One is that the Wizards will need three capable point guards next season anyways with Wall coming back from an Achilles surgery. He is likely to be on a minutes limit to start and it seems certain he won't be playing back-to-backs, at least in the beginning. The other element here is the upcoming NBA draft class. It is loaded at point guard and combo guard. The odds of the Wizards being on the clock with the best player(s) available being point guards seem high. If their first round pick is a point guard, it would throw a wrench into all of these potential plans.

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Is anyone playing their way off the roster?

The Wizards are embracing their inclusion in the NBA's restart because of the opportunity it has provided for player development. They are getting guys experience they would otherwise not receive and it has allowed them to experiment with players in new roles. Brown closing the game against Indiana as a point guard is a good example of something that would otherwise not happen if this regular season was normal.

But they are also evaluating who to keep and who not to and it's fair to wonder how much the production, or lack thereof, from their players will determine those decisions. Ultimately, it is an eight-game snapshot when these guys have the rest of their 2019-20 seasons to present as data. If the Wizards do put major importance on how players are faring in Orlando, then that is not a good sign for guys like Moe Wagner and Admiral Schofield. The good news for anyone who is struggling is that they will have another three-plus months to train for next year once the offseason arrives next week.

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How to watch: Washington Wizards vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

How to watch: Washington Wizards vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

A loss to the Pelicans on Friday officially eliminated the Wizards from playoff contention and moved Washington to 0-5 in the NBA bubble. As bleak as that sentence sounds, Sunday's matchup against the Oklahoma City Thunder is still important.

Though it won't impact this year's outcome, the final few games in Orlando offer the Wizards an opportunity to evaluate their young talent and start building toward the future. Role players and emerging talents will get a chance to work on their game against NBA competition and show their worth to the franchise.

Here's everything you need to know about the Wizards-Thunder matchup. 

WIZARDS at THUNDER HOW TO WATCH 

What: Washington Wizards at Oklahoma City Thunder

Where: ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, Orlando, Florida

When: Sunday, August 9, 12:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: Wizards at Thunder will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (NBC Sports Channel Finder) 

Live Stream: You can live stream Wizards at Thunder on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and on the MyTeams app.

Radio: Wizards Radio Network, 1500 AM

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WIZARDS at THUNDER TV SCHEDULE

11:30 PM: Wizards Pregame Live (LIVE)

12:30 PM: Washington Wizards at Oklahoma City Thunder (LIVE)

3:00 PM: Wizards Postgame Live (LIVE

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WIZARDS at THUNDER: WHAT TO WATCH

Working toward the future is the biggest goal for Washington right now. With no ground to gain in 2020, the Wizards sole concern should be giving their young roster an opportunity to grow each time out. 

Rui Hachimura had a slow start to the resumption of play but broke out of his slump on Friday. The rookie's continued emergence is an essential part of Washington's plans for the future, and the final three games offer him an opportunity to end the season on a high note and get more comfortable in his role. 

Orlando was an opportunity for Wizards players to take advantage of extra playing time, Thomas Bryant and Troy Brown Jr. have done just that. Bryant has produced in all facets of the game while Brown has shown he can score and handle the ball. Sunday is another opportunity to show their value. 

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WIZARDS at THUNDER PLAYERS TO WATCH

Thomas Bryant, C, Wizards (13.0 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 1.9 apg): Bryant has been a monster in Orlando. He had three straight games with a double-double followed by a 22-point, eight-rebound performance on Friday. In the pain and out on the perimeter, he's made shots. His defense has also looked better as of late. 

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, G, Thunder (19.1 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 3.3 apg): The second-year guard has come into his own with the Thunder and become a big part as to why the team is still competing in the Western Conference. His size and skill will be a lot for the Wizards defense to handle. 

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