[The article has been transcribed to YouTube HERE.]
The Wiz Kids have earned their first playoff series victory since 2005. What does that mean in the wider context of D.C. sports? A few tidbits:
- The Washington Redskins have won three wild card playoff games since winning Super Bowl XXVI.
- The Washington Capitals have won five first round playoff series since D.C.'s last championship, including a magical run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1998.
- The Washington Nationals have not won a playoff series in D.C. (or Montreal since 1981)
Wizards Nation turns their eyes to Round 2 of the 2014 NBA Playoffs, where they will play a floundering Indiana Pacers squad that gave them fits in the regular season or the 8th seed Al Horford-less Atlanta Hawks under the guidance of respected long-time Popovich assistant Mike Budenholzer. There are few easy playoff series and whomever the Wizards play will be turned up to 11. Yet, if the Wizards win in Round 2, they will own the second-best results a D.C. team has enjoyed in 20-plus years.
Taste the possibility that these Wizards may be the best team in Washington D.C. since the Redskins won the Super Bowl.
Let's be honest: few saw this coming. Fandom and the blogosphere were resigned to Ernie Grunfeld being re-signed and a significant fraction were holding out faint hope Randy Wittman would be shown the door should the team fall apart against 'Heart, Hustle, and Muscle.' The team showed flashes of tantalizing cohesion during regular season play, but failed to achieve substantive consistency. They would require what had eluded them all year to earn success in the postseason, something Grunfeld's last Finals squad had. They needed an edge.
And what better opponent to beat an edge out of them than the Bulls? The Wizards were thrown to the playoff wolves and out-savaged them, forced to execute at a level they had struggled to sustain for a quarter or two at a time, much less a best-of-seven series.
Maybe you want to qualify what the Wizards have achieved. The Bulls had no extra gear to go to, a talent shortage and Thib's inflexibility spelling their doom before the series began, right? Bullshit. The Wizards scrapped, hustled, ground and coached their way through this series when their willingness and ability to do exactly that was in question.
Maybe you want to qualify what the Wizards might achieve. The Pacers are floundering. The Hawks are the eighth seed in one of the historically weakest fields in Eastern Conference history. Bullshit. Does the University of Maryland's 2002 NCAA championship count less because they beat Indiana instead of Duke? Round 2 is happening with a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals very much a possibility, and that is not a chance to be discounted.
The Pacers may rediscover their form. The Hawks have pushed the first seed to the brink of elimination after nearly free-falling out of the playoffs altogether, so they're hitting their stride at the right time. Regardless, don't try to qualify what has been or will be, because the heart of what I'm getting at is #whynotus.
There are 16 wins from qualifying for the playoffs to hoisting the Larry O'Brien trophy against four teams desperate to trample each other. The Wizards have 12 wins left and are on-deck, peaking at the right time. #12TOGO