The Washington Wizards have nearly locked their spot in the 2014 playoffs and it’s time for the fans of the team to get excited. But it’s not just the fans who are excited. As John Wall recently stated, he is also excited to be in the chase of a playoff ticket for the first time in his professional career in the NBA. Assuming the Wizards will retain their current level of play, they will most probably participate in the postseason. Taking advantage of the weak competition in the East, the Wizards currently stand at the fifth seed in the conference, 14 games behind the leaders of the conference, Indiana Pacers. Let’s see some of the teams Washington could meet in the first round of the playoffs. This match-up will be very important for the team, since it can make the difference between an elimination and the continuation to the second round for the team.
First of all, we have to consider that the Wizards haven’t still clinched a playoff ticket. In the one month which is remaining in the 2013-2014 season, the Wizards will have to continue and get some victories. That’s because the eighth-seeded Atlanta Hawks are just five games behind and the emerging New York Knicks are 7.5 games behind respectively. It’s obvious that the Wizards could end up losing one or even more spots by the end of the 2013-2014 campaign. With teams like the Brooklyn Nets and the Charlotte Bobcats or even the Knicks below them, we can’t say for sure that the Wizards’ spot is secure. On the contrary, it will be very difficult for Washington to rank higher than the fifth seed, since the Chicago Bulls, who currently rank fourth have been playing exceptionally well as of lately. The Wizards could end up ranking somewhere between the spots 5 to 8 at the end of the season. However, Marcin Gortat has another opinion, as he stated that the Wizards could end up ranking third in the East at the end of the regular season. He said: “It all depends where we gonna end up, in a playoff spot. You know, we still got 20 games, we still can work on it and get better. We believe that we can be the third-best team here in the East, and that’s what we’re going to do.”
If the season ended today, the Washington Wizards would face the Chicago Bulls. This is one of the most favorable matchups for Washington. Although Joakim Noah is showing why he is considered a candidate for the MVP award this season and despite the impressive run the Chicago Bulls are into, the Wizards do stand big chances to win beat them. Chicago’s strength lies in their big man line. Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson have been playing outstandingly well this season and especially since the Luol Deng trade. However, the Wizards are able to match up against them, assuming they’ll have all their weapons available come playoff time. Marcin Gortat, Nene and Kevin Seraphin could effectively contain the Bulls’ bigs, outplay them on the glass and at the same time be dominant on offense. The Bulls are currently the best defensive team in the league, but the Wizards are very good on offense on the other hand. If Washington meets Chicago in the postseason, get ready for an evenly-matched series.
The Toronto Raptors are another potential opponent for the Washington Wizards. Toronto currently stands just half a game ahead of Chicago and with the way the Bulls are playing, it shouldn’t be a surprise if they ended up ranking them below Chicago. The truth is that Toronto has been impressive this season. Really, the Raptors are playing much better than almost anyone around the league expected. However, it’s not that certain that the young group Dwane Casey can really continue to play that well during the playoffs. No offense to DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry and Jonas Valanciunas but I just don’t expect them to really make the difference during the playoffs. Yes, the team is over performing and of course it has some valuable pieces, which means the team has a bright future. But when it comes to winning during the playoffs, veteran experience also plays a role and the Raptors don’t have much of that. This means that the Wizards do stand good chances of rolling past them if they meet them during the first round of the playoffs. Washington has the offensive weapons, in John Wall and Bradley Beal, to match up against Toronto in the frontcourt. In addition, with Nene back, the Wizards will most probably win the battle in the paint.
If the Wizards gain two spots in the Eastern Conference standings, they will face the sixth-seeded team, which currently is the Brooklyn Nets. This will be a tough matchup for the Wizards, but it won’t be impossible for them to win in a seven-game series. In fact, the Wizards just recently beat the Nets, although they have some major absences. Washington could win the Nets, using Wall’s outstanding production this season but also its power inside. The Nets are playing a small-ball lineup and Washington has an obvious advantage, which will become even bigger once Nene gets back from his injury. The Nets have been playing much better after the All-Star break but that doesn’t have to really worry Washington.
In one of the worst-case scenarios, if the Wizards for some reason fall to the seventh seed of the Eastern Conference they will face the Miami Heat in the first round of the postseason. Although Marcin Gortat sounded optimistic that Washington can beat the Heat in the playoffs, this doesn’t sound much realistic. The Heat are not at their best shape and yet they are surging. It’s one thing to beat the defending champs in one game and a totally different achievement to win in a seven-game series, when you don’t have the home court advantage.
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