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Wizards-Magic offers big playoff stakes, two contrasting styles

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Wizards-Magic offers big playoff stakes, two contrasting styles

Fifteen games remain on the Wizards' schedule, but only three of them are against teams they are directly battling in the race for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Wednesday will be the first of those three games, as they host the Orlando Magic for a 7 p.m. tip-off on NBC Sports Washington.

The Wizards are 11th in the East and 3 1/2 games out of the eighth spot. The Magic are ninth, just one game behind the Miami Heat, the team everyone is chasing.

If the Wizards can take out the Magic, they will help themselves in two ways. For one, they will gain a full game on Orlando. Second, they will win the season series between the teams, 2-1, and hold the tiebreaker in the event they finish with the same regular season record.

Though these teams are each gunning for the same goal, they are going about it in very different ways.

The Wizards and Magic will be a match-up of contrasting styles. Orlando is all about their defense. They rank fifth in the NBA in points allowed (106.8) and eighth in defensive rating (108.3). On offense they are dreadful, ranking 26th in scoring (105.8 ppg) and 25th in offensive rating (107.3).

The Wizards have been the opposite, and even more so after trading for Jabari Parker and Bobby Portis. Since they were added to the lineup on Feb. 8, the Wizards are tied for first in points (119.8 ppg) and place fifth in offensive rating (113.3), but rank 27th in points allowed (119.4) and 24th in defensive rating (113).

The biggest difference in approach may be in the speed these teams play and something will have to budge. The Magic like to grind it out in slower games. The Wizards like to push the ball in a run-and-gun offense.

The NBA measures pace by possessions per 48 minutes and the Magic are 26th in the category (98.1). The Wizards since adding Parker and Portis are third in pace at 104.85. That number would lead the NBA if held for the full season.

One team likes low-scoring, defensive battles. The other prefers to fly up and down the court in shootouts.

If the Wizards can force the Magic to play their game, it could work in their favor. Though, Orlando of course will try to do the same.

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Wizards owner Ted Leonsis talks Dwyane Wade, still undecided on offseason moves

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Wizards owner Ted Leonsis talks Dwyane Wade, still undecided on offseason moves

WASHINGTON -- Ted Leonsis had a front row seat to two converging storylines.

The Wizards owner was among throngs inside Capital One Arena appreciating Miami Heat legend Dwyane Wade’s final game in Washington.

Leonsis also recognized the likely last gasp for his team’s playoff hopes came up short.

“They’ll make the playoffs. It doesn’t look like we’ll make the playoffs now,” Leonsis said to NBC Sports Washington following the Wizards’ loss Saturday night.

 “Hope [Dwyane] plays well,” Leonsis continued. “We’ll have to figure out what to do in the off-season.”

The loss dropped the Wizards (30-44) 6 ½ games back of the Heat for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Washington only has eight regular-season games remaining.

Earlier this season Leonsis said organizational changes are in play should the Wizards fail to reach their goals, which included reaching the postseason for the fifth time in six seasons.

Asked for his current thoughts on any off-season changes, Leonsis told NBC Sports Washington, “Don’t know yet. Let’s see how they do out West. It was disappointing. We were trying to catch [Miami].”

The Wizards embark on a four-game Western Conference road trip starting Tuesday against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Despite any frustration with the game’s conclusion and the season at-large, Leonsis appreciated Wade’s gusto on his way out. 

The 16-year veteran and 13-time All-Star announced his retirement before the season. Wade, 37, looked anything but over-the-hill late against the Wizards.

Having turned into Miami’s closer after the All-Star break, Wade scored 11 of his team-high 20 points in the fourth quarter as the Heat (36-37) fended off several Wizards rallies.

“Kind of historic, right? (Wild) that Dwyane Wade beat us tonight,” Leonsis said. “What a career, what a game. Just everything about the way he plays is beautiful. He’s really great.”

Leonsis remarked the referees overlooked an apparent traveling violation from Wade in the third quarter.

“We wanted to beat them. They played better. The no-call on Dwyane on the travel was apropos. I thought he took five steps. You say, ‘Well, that’s when you’re a Hall of Famer you get that respect,” Leonsis said respectfully. “But, good for him.”

Miami moved one game ahead of idle ninth-place Orlando in the Eastern Conference standings.

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Scott Brooks jokes that the Heat should be fined for letting Wade call it a career

Scott Brooks jokes that the Heat should be fined for letting Wade call it a career

On most occasions, elite athletes decide to finish their careers way after their skills have declined. It is uncommon for most icons to go out on their own terms. When you train your entire life to play professional basketball, it's a tough task to realize that your time has passed, and its time to move on to another venture. 

Dwyane Wade is not grouped into that category. Tonight's performance against the Wizards justified that. 

After announcing publicly last September that the 2018-19 NBA season would be his last, the news left the sports world nostalgic. Once a bright young star out of Marquette, "Flash" was must-see television.

After announcing last September that this would be his last ride in South Beach, Wade, albeit the face of the franchise, knew that this team wasn't the one he had joined when he was drafted fifth overall in June of 2003. It wasn't the squad he won his first title with in '06, or the bunch that started the "Super Team" movement. This was a collection of young prospects, journeymen, and he was a veteran presence, and no longer the marquee option. He welcomed the move to the bench and to be the veteran presence in the locker room that the team needed and has had quite the resurgence of sorts that has the sports world questioning whether retirement is really the best option, and whether he should come back another year. 

Scott Brooks is one of many who thinks Wade should reconsider.

In his final appearance at Capital One Arena Saturday evening, the veteran star lead his group to victory, showing flashes of the player he once was, and carrying his squad to a crucial road win. 

Brooks joked that "the NBA needs to fine the Miami Heat for letting him retire".

It appears that Wade's contemporaries are of the mindset of Brooks. Wizards forward Jeff Green, who exploded for 25 points off the bench in the tough loss, discussed postgame that despite his efforts to get Wade to change his mind, the latter knows that it's time to move on.

"He's playing amazing," Green said. "I've tried my convincing, I've been trying for the last six months, it didn't work."

Green expressed that he's glad his friend is choosing to leave the game before it leaves him.

"I'm happy for the guy." Green said. "He's going out the way he wants to."

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