It took the Washington Wizards nearly seven seasons to return to the playoffs. Once they did, it only took two series before they became the darling of the NBA with a seemingly bright future.
The Wizards bowed out of the playoffs on May 15 in an emotional 93-80 defeat in Game Six to the seasoned Indiana Pacers. The Wizards rode their young backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal to two impressive road wins against Indiana, but the club's inability to win at the Verizon Center eventually closed the book on Washington’s best season in 10 years. The AFRO recaps the week that was for the Washington Wizards.
Sun., May 11 – Pacers Edge Wizards in Game Four, 95-92: Down 2-1 after a disastrous performance at the Verizon Center in Game 3, the Wizards had their backs against the wall as they attempted to tie the series up in Game 4 at home. After their worst offensive performance of the season, in which Washington could only muster 62 points at home, the Wizards came out in sync for the following game. A second-quarter run allowed Washington to enter halftime with a comfortable 17-point lead, but the Pacers outscored the Wizards 33-17 in the third quarter to evaporate the Wizards’ lead. Indiana would claim a slim lead of their own in the fourth quarter and hang on to eke out a 95-92 victory.
Indiana’s Paul George was stellar, pouring in 39 points with 12 rebounds while shooting a blistering 7-of-10 from beyond the arc. Beal led Washington with 20 points, but the Wizards couldn’t find a player to match George's dominance as starters Wall, Nene and Marcin Gortat combined for just 24 points on 10-of-28 shooting. Adding in Trevor Ariza’s 16 points and George’s 39 points the two alone matched the point production (40) of Washington’s four other starters.
Tues., May 13 – Wizards Storm to 102-79 Blowout Win in Game 5: Trailing in the series 3-1 and facing a raucous Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, the Wizards delivered perhaps their best performance of the year in a 102-79 blowout victory. Gortat (31 points, 16 rebounds) and Wall (27 points, five assists) blitzed a shell-shocked Pacers club, pushing the Wizards’ lead to more than 30 points late in the game. Washington out-rebounded Indiana 62-23, setting a record for the largest margin of rebounding in a postseason game and sending a stern message to the Eastern Conference’s top seed that they wouldn’t go without a fight. The Wizards finished with two players with 10 or more rebounds and two others with eight and nine rebounds, respectively. The Pacers’ leading rebounder, David West, finished the game with six.
Thurs., May 15 – Wizards’ Season Ends in 93-80 Game 6 Loss: The Wizards trailed by double digits for most of Game 6 before a spirited comeback in front of a sold-out Verizon Center gave the team a final round of applause from their fans for a job well done. Beal’s fourth quarter three-pointer gave Washington a 74-73 lead and sent fans into a frenzy. But it wasn’t meant to be as the Pacers closed the game on an 18-7 run to clinch the series. Gortat led the team with 19 points and six rebounds, but neither he or Wall (5-for-16, 12 points, nine assists) could replicate their heroic efforts from Game 5. The Pacers’ West drilled Washington all night with timely jumpers en route to a game-high 29 points.
Analysis: The Wizards would love to have Game 2 and Game 4 back, as both contests could have gone a different way with better late-game execution. Although their second round exit hurts, Washington made several strides this year and will have some interesting decisions to make this summer. Gortat and Ariza are free agents and their defections could cripple the success that Washington enjoyed this season. However, the Wizards and their young backcourt turned heads in the playoffs and their upstart success, backed by cap space and the allure of the nation’s capital, could attract some big names as replacements should Washington be forced to part ways with the two key starters.
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