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NBA Play-In Tournament: the scenarios facing the Wizards, explained, Part II

The Wizards have improved their seeding in the East by a lot. They can still improve it even further!

Washington Wizards v Indiana Pacers
If Russell Westbrook can average a fourth triple-double season, the Wizards can improve their playoff position!
Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images

In an earlier piece, I dove into the scenarios where the Wizards finish 9/10/11th at the conclusion of the NBA regular season. Now, let’s consider the remaining two optimistic scenarios where the Wizards advance to 7th or 8th.

It’s important to note that a seventh or eighth seed will also give the Wizards TWO chances to make the Round of 16 in the playoffs. If they lose the 7th/8th seed game, they get one more chance against the winner of the 9th and 10th seed game. For the nitty gritty rules concerning the NBA Play-In Tournament see my piece from last week.

OK, here we go.

Optimistic: the Wizards advance to 8th

This scenario all rests on the January 20th COVID-postponed game that was supposed to be played by Washington in Charlotte. Well, now it has been rescheduled to May 16, and, get this, in Washington! What is even more significant is that will almost a back-to-back-to-back game for Charlotte! Charlotte hosts the Clippers Thursday night, then travels to Madison Square Garden Friday, and then heads to Capital One Arena probably for an early Sunday game (although the time of the game has not been released yet). That’s three games in about 66 hours...

Historically, teams do OK in such situations. Yet, it’s a different story to have to do this for your very last games of the season and then be ready for a Play-In game two days later. Brutal.

The NBA, in my opinion, is seriously compromising the health of its players by not giving a bit more breathing room here. And if an injury situation arises for the Hornets here, then this will look quite bad for the league. By the way, this will be a regular back-to-back for the Wizards themselves and I’d hate to see any injuries on their side either. Added in the last-minute: we now all heard of Beal’s hamstring injury. I’ve been warning about this in the previews in the past couple weeks (see here, or here).

Be it as it may, under what circumstances will the May 16 game decide the 8th spot for the regular season? Well, the Hornets already own the tiebreak with the Wizards having beat them in the two games they already played. So for the Wizards to jump ahead of them would require the Wizards to win two more games than the Hornets in the remaining week.

For that, the Hornets will have to come into May 16 having won at most two of their three games against the Denver Nuggets, Los Angeles Clippers, and New York Knicks. Simultaneously, the Wizards would have to come into May 16 having won

  • all three of their games—against the Hawks (twice) and the Cavaliers—in the case the Hornets win exactly two of their three games,
  • at least two of their three games—against the Hawks (twice) and the Cavaliers—in the case the Hornets win exactly one of their three games.
  • at least one of their three games—against the Hawks (twice) and the Cavaliers—in the case the Hornets lose all of their three games.


Miracle: the Wizards jump to 7th

Well, why not end on an even MORE optimistic note?

For the Wizards to miraculously jump to 7th, they’d need a few things.

  • Due to that unfortunate 111-110 loss to the Celtics back on Feb. 28 as the Wizards failed to contain Tatum several times in the last minute, the Celtics own the tiebreak. Thus, the Wizards will have to win all four of their remaining games and hope the Celtics lose all of their remaining four games. This includes their next home game against the Heat. But this scenario seems near impossible as the Celtics have two easy games against the Cavaliers and the Timberwolves which are both competing for a bottom 4 standing.
  • Oh, and at the same time, the Wizards will need to pass the Hornets which is going to be tough by itself (see the paragraph about advancing to 8th).
  • The Wizards cannot under any scenario pass the Miami Heat as the latter are now five wins ahead (and even if they had lost to the Celtics yesterday the Heat own the tiebreaker with the Wizards). So, the Wizards can’t climb up to 6th and earn a playoff berth outright. As for the identity of the 7th spot the race is completely open between Miami, Boston, and Atlanta. Actually, even the Knicks could, under some scenarios, tumble down to 7th.