The Wizards play the Indiana Pacers at 7 p.m. Friday with an opportunity to at least stay steady in the Eastern Conference playoff race. It's also a big night for the other teams in the playoff picture. First, let's take a look at the standings as of today.
1. Indiana Pacers (52-20)
2. Miami Heat (48-22), 3 GB of Indy
3. Toronto Raptors (40-31), 8.5 GB of Miami
4. Chicago Bulls (40-31), 8.5 GB of Miami - Toronto has the tiebreaker
5. Brooklyn Nets (37-33), 2.5 GB of Chicago
6. Washington Wizards (36-35), 1.5 GB of Brooklyn
7. Charlotte Bobcats (35-37), 1.5 GB of Washington
8. Atlanta Hawks, (31-40), 4 GB of Washington
On the outside looking in
9. New York Knicks (30-42), 1.5 GB of Atlanta
10. Cleveland Cavaliers (29-44), 2.5 GB of Atlanta
Why do the Wizards sometimes act 'mentally weak'?
A lack of intensity doomed the Washington Wizards when they lost to the Phoenix Suns at home. Why does this keep happening? Perhaps it's far bigger than the players.
Let's focus on the four teams that are either close to the Wizards in the standings or who could be their first round opponent in the playoffs.
Who do they play this weekend? At Orlando, 7 p.m. Friday
Best Case Scenario: If the Wizards win Friday and Saturday, they will have a 38-35 record heading into Monday's game. If Charlotte loses to Orlando tonight and loses to Washington on Monday, they would have a 35-39 record, while the Wizards would have a 39-35 record. That would give the Wizards a four game cushion over them heading into Monday, when they would face the Bobcats on the road.
Even if Charlotte wins tonight (which is more likely), and the rest of this scenario plays out, that would give the Cats a 36-38 record which is still three games behind the Wizards.
Worst Case Scenario: If the Bobcats win Friday and the Wizards lose both Friday and Saturday, both teams would have identical 36-37 records, though the Wizards would still have the tiebreaker because they have a better in-conference record. That makes Monday's game against the Bobcats a match for the sixth seed in the East.
Who do they play this weekend? They host Cleveland Friday at 7:30 p.m and host Minnesota Sunday at 6 p.m. Sunday.
Best Case Scenario: If the Wizards win both of their games this weekend while the Nets lose both of theirs, the Wizards would be back in the fifth seed this Monday. Even though it's mathematically possible, it will be a tall order to see this happen given that the Wizards have a tougher team to play Friday than the Nets do, but it will definitely be nice if it this did play out.
Worst Case Scenario: If the Nets win both Friday and Sunday, they would have a 39-33 record. If the Wizards are 36-37 heading into Monday, they would be 3.5 games behind the Nets for the fifth seed in the East. Couple that with the worst-case scenario for the Bobcats, and that raises the stakes for Monday's game that much more.
Toronto Raptors and Chicago Bulls
Who do they play this weekend? The Raptors host Boston Friday at 7 p.m and play on the road against Orlando at 6 p.m. Sunday.
The Bulls host Portland Friday at 8 p.m and play on the road against Boston at 6 p.m. Sunday.
Best Case Scenario: Both teams have identical records, so I'll bunch them together. If the Wizards win all their games and the Raptors and/or Bulls lose all of theirs, the Wizards would have a 38-35 record, while the Raptors/Bulls would be 40-33. Washington would then just be two games behind them.
The possibility of having home court advantage as the fifth seed vs. Toronto: If the Wizards play the Raptors in the Playoffs for the first round, the best case scenario would be in a situation where the Raptors are the No. 4 seed (remember, they can't fall worse than fourth) and the Wizards as the No. 5 seed, but with the Wizards having a better regular season record, which would give home court advantage to the good guys. This also would depend on the Bulls going on a strong late season run and the Nets and Bobcats also having setbacks toward the end of the season. And of course, the Wizards must play strong during that time as well.
As great as this situation sounds, it's still a huge stretch to see all of this happen. If the Wizards face the Raptors or Bulls in the first round, it's probably with them as the No. 3 seed.
Worst Case Scenario: If the Wizards lose all their games and the Raptors and/or Bulls win all of theirs, Washington would be 36-37 and would be six games behind Toronto and/or Chicago, who would have a 42-31 record.