The Wizards’ season was defined by missed opportunities, which was best exemplified by their loss to the Orlando Magic in the regular season finale. The loss dropped Washington to the eighth seed and set up Washington to lose to the Raptors in the first round.
If you’ll recall, the popular notion at the time was that the Wizards should shoot for the seventh seed because they’d get to face the Celtics, who were missing Gordon Hayward, Kyrie Irving, and Marcus Smart. Well, so much for that. The Celtics are now two games away from the NBA Finals after taking down the Bucks, 76ers, and jumping out to a 2-0 lead over the Cavaliers.
You could argue the Celtics’ success is a relief. Had the Wizards taken care of business against Orlando, Boston probably would have found a way to beat Washington, in spite of their shortcomings. Al Horford would’ve exploited Washington’s big men, Terry Rozier probably would have hit some big shots, and Brad Stevens still would have had all the tricks he used against the Wizards in the playoffs last season.
Or would they? Perhaps seizing one good opportunity would have started a snowball effect in Washington. Don’t forget, the Celtics were particularly vulnerable in the first round. Marcus Smart didn’t return until the fifth game of the series and they still needed seven games to get past the Bucks. Would the Wizards have let the Celtics off the hook so easily, considering their past? Probably not.
If they had gotten past the Celtics, they would have faced the 76ers in the second round. We saw how Boston exploited Philadelphia’s inexperience to roll to a convincing series win, and the Wizards entered the playoffs with more experience than the Celtics, so it stands to reason they could have done something similar. They wouldn’t have been able to slow down Joel Embiid the way Boston could, but they had more offensive firepower, and the 76ers wouldn’t have had a way to slow down Wall.
The Wizards probably wouldn’t have been able to replicate Boston’s success so far against Cleveland, but losing in the Eastern Conference Finals after an impressive underdog run feels a lot different than being vanquished after six games in the first round against the Raptors, who didn’t win another playoff game.
As it turns out, Washington’s loss in the regular season finale was quite important for the Magic too. Had Orlando lost that game, they would have tied the Hawks and Mavericks for the third-worst record in the league. Perhaps the lottery combination that allowed Atlanta to secure the third pick would have gone to Orlando, who will now be picking sixth.
In hindsight, it’s probably for the best the Wizards lost the regular season finale. The last thing this team needed is a hollow run to the Eastern Conference Finals to puff themselves up and put off changes the team will need to make this summer. Still, it has to make you wonder how much different the season would look, in spite of all of its missteps and missed opportunities, if the Wizards could have just beaten the Magic in a game they weren’t even trying to win.
Where would the Wizards be if they moved up to the seventh seed?
This poll is closed
Would have lost earlier in the first round
Still would have lost in 6 in the first round
Would have lost in 7 in the first round
Would have made it to the second round
Would have made it to the conference finals