The Wizards were beaten handily by the Houston Rockets on Tuesday night in what amounted to their 11th loss in 17 games. That is not ideal with just four games remaining until the postseason, no matter which way you spin it.
That loss to Houston, though, had a silver lining depending on whom you ask. With their loss and a win by the Miami Heat, the Wizards slid down a spot in the Eastern Conference. They began the day lined up to meet the Cleveland Cavaliers and ended it set up to see the Boston Celtics.
The Cavs are gaining steam with Kevin Love now back. The Celtics are also playing well, but are likely to spend the first round without Kyrie Irving and Marcus Smart. Gordon Hayward is also injured and probably won't be back until next year.
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Given the alternative, the Celtics don't sound so bad and that's even with Brad Stevens at coach and loads of talent remaining on their roster. We know Tomas Satoransky would prefer to not face LeBron James in the first round, but others on the Wizards are adamant they do not care who they see.
"I’m not comfortable with nothing. I’m trying to move up," guard John Wall said. "No matter who you play in the first round or who you play in the second round, it’s always going to be a tough matchup. It’s the playoffs."
"Win. Go out there and get in a great rhythm and win," forward Kelly Oubre, Jr. said of his approach to the final four games.
The Wizards can now finish no better than fifth in the East, but the odds are even long for that. One more win for the Pacers or one more loss for the Wizards and Washington can do no better than sixth.
Meanwhile, the Wizards could fall as low as eighth. They have the same record as the No. 6 Heat and No. 8 Bucks. The Wizards are in seventh due to tiebreakers based on conference record.
The four most likely choices the Wizards have for the first round are the top-seeded Toronto Raptors, the No. 2 Celtics, the No. 3 Cavs or the No. 4 Sixers, if Philly were to move up. All four have their pros and cons, but LeBron's track record would be difficult to overcome. The guy has won 21 straight first-round games and has played in seven consecutive NBA Finals.
Though all would be very difficult to play, the Celtics may be the most ideal matchup due to injuries. The Raptors are excellent at both offense and defense and, despite popular belief, have a long track record in the playoffs. They were in the conference finals just two years ago and there is reason to believe this team is better.
Wall, though, has been in the playoffs three times before and knows there are no ideal matchups. That mindset plays into how he would like to approach the final four games in terms of which ones he plays in.
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Wall is not expected to play in both games of back-to-backs and the Wizards have two back-to-backs remaining. That means he will likely play in one game in their split between the Cavs and Hawks and the same for their final two games against the Celtics and Magic.
Will Wall play against the playoff-bound Cavs and Celtics or against the lottery-bound Hawks and Magic, or some combination of both? Wall stated his preference clearly after Tuesday night's loss in Houston.
"I want to play against the teams that are going to be in the playoffs. No offense to the teams that are not going to the playoffs," he said. "I want to play against Cleveland and definitely against Boston because those are who we might end up seeing in the playoffs. So, leave a statement there."
Wall knows it could be the Cavs or Celtics and doesn't want to wait until the playoffs begin to get a shot at them.
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