It's amazing how two games can change one's outlook. Thanks to big wins over the Pistons and Bulls this week, the Wizards are only 1.5 games out of the eighth seed and hold the tiebreakers over Detroit and Chicago if they finish with the same record.
When it's phrased like that, it sounds like Washington is right there. Certainly, if the Wizards continue to play as well as they have over the past two games they give themselves a good shot, but there
1. Detroit plays their next eight games at home
Yes, the Pistons helped the Wizards cause by losing at home to start their homestand against the Hawks on Wednesday night, but they're just starting to settle back in at home. They don't have to travel again until April 2. In between, they have home games against the Kings, Nets, Bucks, Magic, Hornets, Hawks, Thunder and Mavericks.
The back end of that stretch gets a little daunting, but they easy front half should give them momentum that may help them enough to steal a game at home on the back end.
After that home stretch, they also host a key game against the Wizards in Detroit on April 8. If Detroit wins, it won't help them win the tiebreaker over the Wizards, but it still might be enough to fend them off for the last playoff spot.
2. The Bulls only play five teams over .500 the rest of the way
The Bulls are bruised, but they land on a pretty soft schedule the rest of the way. They have a tough home game vs. Atlanta on March 28. The next night they go to Indiana to face the Pacers. In April, the Bulls go on the road to face Memphis, who is over .500 but missing most of their key players due to injuries, they'll face Miami on the road, and they'll host Cleveland on the last weekend of the season, by which point the Cavaliers should have the Eastern Conference locked up.
Every other game the Bulls play comes against teams at or below .500 at the moment. Some of those games are harder (@ Houston, vs. Utah) than others (home vs. Brooklyn and Philadelphia) but the point stands.
3. Washington still has a five-game West Coast road trip
Washington kicks off their last big road trip of the season on Easter Sunday against the Lakers. They'll also face the Warriors, Kings, Suns and Clippers on the trip. With that schedule, anything less than three wins would be devastating. Finishing with more than three wins would almost a huge win for the trip because it would mean the Wizards would have beaten either the Warriors or Clippers.
But don't take those games against the Lakers, Suns and Kings for granted, especially the Sacramento game which comes a night after they try to run with the Warriors. The Wizards have already lost to the Lakers once this season and Wizards are only 3-7 on the road against Western Conference teams, including losses to the Nuggets and Pelicans who are firmly out of the playoff chase.
4. The Wizards still have three games left against Atlanta
Next week, the Wizards play two critical games against the Hawks, who they've had big issues with over the past two seasons, including a 114-99 loss in Atlanta earlier this season. Yes, Washington pushed them hard in the playoffs last season, but only after the Wizards found themselves with Paul Pierce as a stretch four.
Washington also faces them for the final game of the season, just like they did last year. But unlike last season, the Hawks won't have the top seed locked up. There's a chance they may need to win on the final night to try to hold on to home court advantage with the Heat, Hornets, Celtics and Pacers all still in the hunt as well.