After the Wizards suffered a crushing loss to the Chicago Bulls last Wednesday, guard Bradley Beal expressed frustration with the team’s culture of losing. He intimated a desire to win more, even with a general expectation that the team would struggle this season.
"I don't like losing, I'm sorry," Beal said after the loss. "Especially winnable games."
His sentiments stand in direct contrast to those of many fans, and maybe some within the organization, who would prefer the team’s losing ways continue through the season and land Washington a top pick in this summer’s draft. But with 10 games remaining before the All-Star break, a realistic path still exists for Beal’s wishes to come to fruition and the Wizards to make a playoff push.
Washington kicked off a four-game road trip with Wednesday’s overtime loss to the Southeast Division rival Miami Heat. A win would’ve been huge in sparking a climb up the Eastern Conference standings, but with games at the Cleveland Cavaliers (12-32) tonight and Atlanta Hawks (11-34) on Sunday, the Wizards still have a chance to pull to 2-1 this trip before ending it Tuesday against the powerhouse Milwaukee Bucks.
The Wizards then come home for a six-game stretch at Capital One Arena that includes games against five teams with sub-.500 records; the Charlotte Hornets (15-30), Brooklyn Nets (18-24), Golden State Warriors (10-36), Memphis Grizzlies (20-24) and Bulls (17-29). Only the Dallas Mavericks, who they play after the Warriors, have a winning record over that stretch. Finally, the Wizards visit the Knicks (12-33) on Feb. 12 before getting an eight-day break in the schedule.
The Wizards are currently 12th in the Eastern Conference but just 4 ½ games out of the eighth and final playoff spot. This 10-game stretch includes just two opponents with winning records, and Washington’s lowly 14-29 record is better than half of the remaining eight teams. The games against the Nets, Bulls and Hornets, three of the four teams between Washington and the eighth seed, provide ample opportunity to make up ground.
The Wizards are in the position they’re in, of course, because like many of these upcoming opponents, they haven’t been a very good team. But while this stretch won’t be a walk in the park, it’s likely where the trajectory of this season will finally be determined. If the Wizards are able to go 6-4 or better, the conversation around how this season ends could change going into the break. If they finish under .500, their long-presumed fate as a lottery team will likely be sealed.
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