The Wizards lost last night.
Over the past 30-odd seasons (except for a handful here and there), this wouldn't be that alarming of a lede. However, the Wizards have been playing like a solid playoff team this season, they've got their first +.500 record in the John Wall-era, and a strong showing in the playoffs can make or break this team's future for the next few years.
Losing games means something right now. Losing games to teams with similar win-loss records means a lot more than something.
Let's take a look at the standings in the East after last night's games, shall we?
|New York Knicks||66||26-40||.394|
The Pacers and the Heat have already clinched playoff berths, and barring any insane losing streaks by one of them couple with an insane winning stream by one of the other teams, we can safely say they'll keep the first and second slots.
The third seed, as seen above, belongs to the Toronto Raptors. Yes, the very same Toronto Raptors that whomped the Wizards three times this year, only to finally fall to our hometown heroes in a triple-overtime funfest last month. After last night, the Wizards are 3.5 games behind them for the third seed. If the season ended today, Washington's sixth seeding would pit them against the Raptors in the first round. While the recency bias of the triple-overtime game might make that a fun series, I personally would not look forward to seeing the Raptors in the playoffs. Kyle Lowry and Amir Johnson are too annoyingly good against the Wizards. No thank you.
Washington's also two games behind the Bulls for the final home-court-worthy seat. After last night's win against Miami, the Nets are a half game ahead of the Wizards for the 5th seed. Personally, I liked it better when everyone assumed the Atlantic Division was going to be dreadful all year and that Chicago would implode without Rose. Alas.
Nipping on the Wizards' heels are the Bobcats. Who beat the Wizards. Last night, remember? That's not good.
And unfortunately for Washington, the Bobcats' remaining schedule isn't too difficult. Hopefully, Charlotte's two remaining games against the Nets will knock around the standings in favor of the Wizards. The Nets have a tougher schedule, featuring games against the Rockets, Mavericks, and the Heat. They've got their work cut out for them, and as well as they've been performing lately, their age may adversely impact them in the standings.
As has been mentioned a few times on this site and others, the Wizards have one of the easiest, if not the overall easiest) remaining schedule in the league. The long and short of it: They MUST capitalize on these remaining games to ensure solid playoff footing.
The games they should win (the Magic on Friday, the Kings and Lakers next week, the Celtics twice more this season, and another game against the Bucks), they will need to win. They'll also need to make sure they beat the teams near them in the standings: Brooklyn (on Saturday) and Charlotte (two more times).
Wizards fans worried about the team's first playoff appearance in six years will want to pay attention to these teams down the stretch. And if the Wizards are worried about their postseason hopes, they should pay attention, too.