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NBA Schedule: Wizards' path to NBA playoffs more clear, but not easy

NBA Schedule: Wizards' path to NBA playoffs more clear, but not easy

The Wizards' path to the 2020 NBA Playoffs is now a little bit more defined, as the league has released its eight-game schedule to close out the regular season. 

Those eight opponents are as follows: the Suns, Nets, Pacers, Sixers, Pelicans, Thunder, Bucks and Celtics. Those are mostly playoff teams, which was to be expected when the NBA opted to only bring the teams with the 22-best records to Orlando for its restart.

The Wizards' opponents have a combined win percentage of .576, which would equate to 47 wins in an 82-game season. Of the eight teams, five of them have winning records.

Washington will play the Bucks, who own the NBA's record, as well as the 43-21 Celtics and 40-24 Thunder. The Wizards have a combined record of 6-5 against their final eight opponents.

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The focus, though, is on the eighth-seeded Orlando Magic, whom the Wizards have to get within four games of to force a play-in tournament to qualify for the playoffs. The Magic are 5 1/2 games ahead of Washington with the Brooklyn Nets just 1 1/2 games ahead of Orlando in seventh.

The Wizards have to cut away 1 1/2 games from the Magic's lead to force the play-in tournament, in which they would have to beat the eight-seed twice without losing to make the full playoff bracket. In order to do that, and get within four games, the Wizards will have to finish with two more wins than Orlando as each closes out their season

 

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So, if the Wizards go 4-4, the Magic would have to go 2-6. If the Wizards go 6-2, the Magic would have to go 4-4 or worse. And if the Wizards bottom out and go 1-7 or 0-8, they have no chance of qualifying. 

If the Wizards erase the 1 1/2 game hole and force the play-in tournament, they may have to play a Magic team that has dominated them so far this season. Orlando is 4-0 against Washington. The Wizards, meanwhile, are 2-0 against the Nets, their other potential opponent.

There are some other factors to consider in the Wizards' quest for the playoffs. They are just 6-18 against teams with .500 or better records this season. They are also 16-16 at home, but a terrible 8-24 on the road. 

The games at Disney World won't be traditional road games, in that they won't see hostile crowds or have to travel in between them. But they won't be home games, either. How the Wizards fare in a neutral court environment will be something to watch.

There are a lot of factors at play, but the Wizards have a chance, which they can embrace after all that has transpired in recent months.

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Kevin Durant posts cryptic, oddly timed tweet after Nets lose to Trail Blazers

Kevin Durant posts cryptic, oddly timed tweet after Nets lose to Trail Blazers

The Nets, playing without Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and most of their key rotation players, lost to Damian Lillard and the Trail Blazers Thursday night, clinching a play-in opportunity for Portland as the eighth seed in the Western Conference.

Lillard had 42 points and was masterful from deep. At one point, he even pulled up from the logo just beyond half-court and drilled a three. 

While Lillard was the story of the game, Durant drew some attention on social media afterward by tweeting a picture of himself dunking in Drake's "Laugh Now Cry Later" music video.

Durant's been out all year recovering from Achilles surgery, but for some reason Nets fans are still holding out hope that he might return, so one of the leading theories for the motivation behind the tweet is that Durant would return for the playoffs. The Nets hold the seventh seed in the East and are set to face the defending champion Raptors in the first round.

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He would have to enter the bubble and quarantine for 10 days before presumably playing in his first game in over a year with little to no ramp-up. If Durant entered the bubble today, he'd be able to return by the time the Nets play the Raptors in Game 5 of the first round. Seems unlikely.

Another theory is that because the Blazers beat the Nets, there's a good chance the Lakers will have a tougher road to the NBA Finals. Given we have no reason to believe he's interested in the Lakers winning a title or that he'd actually be happy after his team loses probably busts this one as well. 

Could it be that Durant was excited about being in a popular music video and tweeted a still of himself coincidentally 30-or-so minutes after his team wrapped up its regular season? Probably, but when has that ever stopped the Twitter detectives from going nuts online?

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Bradley Beal feels bad for the Phoenix Suns: "Boys went undefeated down there, no reward."

Bradley Beal feels bad for the Phoenix Suns: "Boys went undefeated down there, no reward."

Washington Wizards star Bradley Beal didn't make the trip to Orlando for the NBA restart due to shoulder rehab, but don't think for a second he wasn't tuned into the NBA action every day. 

One of the many incredible storylines inside the NBA Bubble was the performance of Devin Booker and the Phonix Suns — the Suns, who were the second-to-last team invited to the restart, went 8-0 in the seeding games but still didn't qualify for the playoff play-in tournament. 

Beal chimed in on Twitter. 

"Feel for Phx!" Beal said. "Boys went undefeated down there, no reward."

After defeating the Dallas Mavericks, 128-102, yesterday afternoon, the Suns needed the Brooklyn Nets to down the Portland Trailblazers in order to make the play-in tournament. While the game was extremely exciting and came down to the last shot, Damian Lilliard and the Blazers walked away victorious. 

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Suns head coach Monty Williams gave an awe-inspiring speech to the team after their victory, noting that regardless if they got into the tournament or not that he was extremely proud of them.

"This was therapeutic for me to be around a group like this. I love you," Williams said. "I don't care what happens tonight, I know what I've got in this room."

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