For those hoping the Wizards would deliver a playoff-caliber performance on the cusp of beginning their first postseason run in years ... let's just say your wishes were granted. Washington pummeled the Miami Heat on Monday, 114-93, putting the team one step closer to clinching No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference.
From the very beginning, it was clear which team considered this game more important. The Heat started without LeBron James and Chris Bosh, opting to rest the two stars with a top-two seed already locked up, and then benched Dwyane Wade once it became obvious the Wizards were bringing their "A" game.
This was a game Miami seemed content to lose, and the Wizards happily obliged by pummeling them into the ground. In pretty much the perfect home finale to the regular season, Washington reminded us all that, hey, we have a team that can beat up opponents, too.
And boy, what a smackdown this was.
After trailing 31-29 early in the second quarter, the Wizards proceeded to make 11 consecutive baskets during a 32-8 run. That was pretty much the game, as a 61-39 deficit proved too much for the undermanned Heat to overcome. From there, the Wizards just settled in defensively, kept the lead up and let fans bask in the glory of a lopsided victory.
Considering the team shot 59 percent from the field, we probably shouldn't be surprised by some of the impressive numbers put up tonight. What is rather remarkable, however, is the fact that John Wall scored only four points in the win. Much of that second quarter run actually came with Andre Miller orchestrating the offense -- the back-up finished with nine assists in 18 minutes.
Wall, meanwhile, had 13 assists in 24 minutes, but shot just 2-of-7 from the field. He seemed content to step back and let the other guys get their own, particularly after Professor Miller got them hot with some insane, pinpoint passes during that big run.
Trevor Ariza led the way with 25 points on 10-of-13 shooting, while Nene came up big off the bench with 18 points on 8-of-12 shooting. Ariza, Al Harrington (16 points) and Bradley Beal (15 points) combined to hit 12 three-pointers, many of which came while the Wizards pulled away.
With the Bobcats still battling in Atlanta as of this writing, we don't know if the Wizards officially have the No. 6 seed yet, but with the big win tonight, they're officially in the driver's seat. A win in Boston on Wednesday ensures a first-round matchup against the Toronto Raptors, blissfully allowing the team to avoid the likes of Miami or Indiana.
And while we often sit here and wonder when the Wizards are going to finally step up, tonight was definitely a good sign. There's only one game left in the regular season, so it's probably fair to say the Wiz are who they are at this point, but beating up on the defending champs is nice, however shorthanded they might be.
That's also 43 wins this season. Since 1980, the Wizards have topped 43 wins just two times: the 1996-97 team that went 44-38, and the 2004-05 team that went 45-37. So this could actually be the third-best team in Washington in the past 34 years. Seriously.