The exact number of NBA teams that have come back from a 3-1 deficit? Irrelevant.
As a fan, I am innately superstitious. Faith and reason are forever at war. Momentum and the hot hand et cetera versus analytics et al. My answer on any given question can vary based on where any given game, season, may be at. I attempt to err on the side of reason. But sometimes ... sometimes the irrational insists and I wonder if this franchise has demons.
We've seen plenty of good medicine get pumped into our favorite team and watched the results sour while clinging to the underlying truth of the Ten Point Plan, of any plan; good process eventually gets good results. Now the Wizards are in the second round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs.
Good basketball is all about valuing each possession, but what player can look at Game 5 without thinking about Games 6 and 7 after blowing three games in a row? If the Wizards were sitting in front of you, dejected, gearing up for another game but you looked at them and knew 'down 3-1' was hung around their neck like the goddamn albatross, what would you say?
I'd probably say something like this:
Last season, mathematically eliminated, this team fought for the ninth seed and failed. That may seem pointless, unless you ask the right question: what do you gain when you ignore the crushing gravity of a phrase like 'mathematically eliminated'? The answer is simple. You fucking fly.
This is what you prepared for. The playoffs are pure. There is the next game or the drive home. There are no statistical averages because nothing exists but the next play. There is no charge/tipped pass/contest percentage board, 50/50 balls are a misnomer; every play is the strongest cocktail of honed discipline and furious energy you can offer your teammates. Everyone trusts you. Everyone has your back.
Don't forget where the series stands. Forget the what the word 'series' means. I don't want you to know what it means. If every play is about chasing perfection this team will achieve excellence. Because you have.
Whatever happens, you leave your guts out on that floor. The season ends for everybody and the mirror will be waiting. Chase perfection with the fucking magnificence you've already shown me and you won't flinch from the face staring back at you.
Winners know: win the last game of the season. IT'S ALWAYS THE LAST GAME OF THE SEASON.
If 'invest in failure' is a phrase to bank on, the Wizards have surely seen a return on that investment this postseason. Maybe they've invested enough this postseason that they rip off 11 straight on their way to the Larry O'Brien trophy. Maybe not.
But if they do? As a Wizards fan, I could never be too surprised, because I remember what matters most: impossible is nothing. Imagine the Wizards in front of you. What would you say?