The Wizards' new schedule to close out the 2019-20 regular season was released on Friday night. Here is one thing to watch with each game:
July 31 vs. Phoenix Suns, 4 p.m.: A chance for a good start
The Wizards will play what is quite easily the worst team on their schedule first, which means they will have a chance to get off on the right foot with a win. The flip side, however, is that a loss to the Suns would take a major hit on their playoff hopes, especially considering the truncated season and how each game carries more importance. This is a game Washington basically can't lose.
Aug. 2 vs. Brooklyn Nets, 2 p.m.: Best chance to help their cause
The team the Wizards need to gain ground on the most, the Orlando Magic, is not on their schedule. The Magic are the eighth-ranked team in the conference with the Wizards lagging behind in ninth. But Washington will see the seventh-seeded Brooklyn Nets, which will offer them their only opportunity to directly help their playoff cause by playing a team that is right ahead of them. If the Wizards can take care of business against Phoenix, then beat Brooklyn, they could set the stage for a playoff push.
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Aug. 3 vs. Indiana Pacers, 4 p.m.: First time seeing Oladipo
Pacers star Victor Oladipo missed a year with a torn quadriceps tendon and had just returned in January, playing only 13 games before the league shut down. He was not quite himself and was still playing his way into shape and finding his rhythm. Now he has had months more to recover and train, which means he could come back much closer to his peak form than when we last saw him. The Wizards will play against him for the first time this season when they play Indiana and, if Oladipo has improved, that could be a very difficult game to win.
Aug. 5 vs. Philadelphia 76ers, 4 p.m.: Beal vs. Simmons
One of the games within the game to watch in Orlando is Bradley Beal's quest for All-NBA. And one of the players he is competing with at the guard spot is Ben Simmons, whom he will see when the Wizards face the Sixers. With so few games and so much attention on them, it would not be surprising if what happens in Orlando carries enormous weight for awards voters in select categories. If Beal goes off against Philly, it might make a real difference. That said, there is a possibility both Beal and Simmons are left off All-NBA.
Aug. 7 vs. New Orleans Pelicans, 8 p.m.: First game vs. Zion
The Wizards still had both of their yearly meetings with the Pelicans left on their schedule and will get to play one of them in Orlando. That means they get to see rookie superstar Zion Williamson for the first time. He was the No. 1 overall pick out of Duke and he has been exceptional so far, averaging 23.6 points and 6.8 rebounds in 19 games. Williamson will square off against fellow rookie Rui Hachimura, whom the Wizards took ninth in last June's draft.
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Aug. 9 vs. Oklahoma City Thunder, 12:30 p.m.: A rematch of a great game
One of the Wizards' best wins this season came in their second game when they went into Oklahoma City and topped the Thunder by the archaic final score of 97-85. That was many moons ago, and a lot has changed for both teams in the time since, but it will be a rematch of one of the Wizards' most memorable games of the season. If the Wizards win the second meeting, they will sweep the Thunder for the first time since they moved from Seattle.
Aug. 11 vs. Milwaukee Bucks, 9 p.m.: Will Giannis play?
The Wizards will have to see the Milwaukee Bucks, who currently own the NBA's best record, and they are already 0-2 against them this season. But by the time they face the Bucks, it seems like there's a good chance they will be resting players, possibly including Giannis Antetokounmpo. They will almost certainly have the top seed in the conference locked in and there is no homecourt in the playoffs anyway. This could represent a break in the schedule right when the Wizards need one as they aim to close the gap on a playoff spot.
Aug. 13 vs. Boston Celtics, TBA: The final game
This game will be interesting simply because it is the final game of the Wizards' regular season and a lot could be on the line. To make the playoffs, the Wizards need to get within four games of the No. 8 spot. They are currently ninth and 5 1/2 games back. There is a good chance everything comes down to the final game. And if the Wizards are somehow in a position where they control their destiny and have to win this game to get in, it will carry major significance. Or, it could just be the final game in a season that ends without a postseason berth.
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