Wizards Fall Short of 50-Win Season, Reset for Playoffs

Wizards Weekly – 24

by: Stephen D. Riley Special to the AFRO
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The second half of the Washington Wizards’ 2016-17 season wasn’t nearly as impressive as the first, but the team gets to wipe the slate clean and reset as they enter the NBA Playoffs.

Washington hoped to reach 50 wins this season, a mark the franchise hasn’t seen since the 1970s. But after locking up a top-four seed weeks ago, the guaranteed playoff berth left the Wizards without any major incentive to play for, while facing opponents on the playoff bubble. The Wizards didn’t achieve their regular season goal, but now they look to make a deep playoff run. The AFRO recaps the week that was for the Washington Wizards.

Washington Wizards forward Kelly Oubre Jr. (12) drives on Detroit Pistons forward Reggie Bullock and center Boban Marjanovic, right, during second half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, April 10, 2017, in Auburn Hills, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

April 10: Wizards Turn Off Lights on Pistons, 105-101

With only two games left in the regular season, Washington hit the road to square off against the Detroit Pistons on April 10 without all-star guard John Wall or utility forward Otto Porter Jr.; both sat out the contest to rest some nagging injuries. Bradley Beal shouldered the load with 33 points in 33 minutes and the Wizards won 105-101 in the final game at Detroit’s historic Auburn Hills Palace. Markieff Morris added 20 points and eight rebounds. Washington won the contest but lost center Ian Mahinmi, who hurt his leg in the second half. The injury would later be diagnosed as a left calf strain.

 

April 12: Desperate Miami Upends Washington, 110-102

Washington headed to Miami on April 12 for their regular season finale, and faced a Heat team that entered the night needing a win to stay alive in the playoff hunt. Without Wall, Beal and Morris, the Wizards simply couldn’t match the Heat’s desperate effort in a 110-102 defeat. The Heat won, but still missed the postseason after Indiana and Chicago won their contests to sew up the final two spots in the Eastern Conference playoffs. With nothing significant to play for, Washington trailed by as many as 16 points after halftime and never challenged Miami after a competitive first half. Reserve guard Trey Burke led Washington with 27 points.

Miami Heat guard Josh Richardson, left, and Washington Wizards guard Trey Burke battle for a loose ball during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, April 12, 2017, in Miami. The Heat defeated the Wizards 110-102. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Washington will move forward into the playoffs without the services of Mahinmi, who is expected to miss the first few weeks of the postseason with a calf injury. Mahinmi was Washington’s big summer free agent acquisition, but injuries delayed the start to his 2016-2017 campaign. The Wizards were counting on the defensive big man to help anchor them throughout the playoffs. But if the Wizards can defeat their first round opponent, the Atlanta Hawks, then they should have the center at their disposal for the rest of the postseason.

Washington isn’t playing the high-paced, efficient basketball they delivered before the All-Star break, but they’ve remained a solid club throughout the second half of the regular season. The Wizards have cranked up the level of their play during the last two occasions they qualified for the playoffs. The same will be expected as Washington heads into the playoffs fresh off their best regular season since 1978. Aside from Mahinmi, the roster is relatively healthy and plenty talented. Sophomore forward Kelly Oubre Jr. came alive in the last few weeks of the regular season, and his play will be something to keep an eye on going forward.

Finishing as the fourth seed in the East, Washington has a solid chance for a deep playoff run. Thanks to their seeding, they could avoid the defending conference champion Cleveland Cavaliers until the Eastern Conference Finals. Washington is favored to beat Atlanta in the opening round, and would love a series with top-seeded Boston if they advance to the semifinals.

The Wizards will start their postseason run when they host Atlanta in Game One at the Verizon Center on Apr. 16.

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