Against all odds, the Washington Wizards are playoff-bound.
Six weeks ago on April 6, just a day after a heartbreaking 103-101 loss to the Raptors that put the Wizards at 17-32 and at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, ESPN calculated just a 0.6% chance for Washington to make the postseason. It turns out that slim chance was just enough for the Wiz.
Washington bounced back from a tough outing against the Celtics in the first play-in game and officially locked up the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference standings —and a spot in the playoffs for the first time since 2018 — on Thursday night with a 142-115 shellacking of the Indiana Pacers.
To get to the postseason, the Wizards put together one of their strongest performances of the year on both ends of the court. Brad led all scorers with 25 points, and was one of six scorers in double figures. Washington looked like a team with something to prove, pushing the tempo to fluster Indiana’s defense with 16 points in transition and putting a focus on exploiting Indiana’s subpar perimeter defense by shooting 28 attempts from the 3-point line, hitting 50 percent of those looks while shooting 58 percent of the field as a whole.
“This is probably one of the best games we’ve played all year,” Brad said. “It was definitely the most important one.”
Though the game remained relatively close throughout the first quarter, Washington exploded in the second with a 16-0 run over a three-minute span to establish a lead they’d never relinquish.
Washington’s strong first half was sparked in part by the strong performances of Russell Westbrook and Rui Hachimura, both of whom struggled to make an impact in the previous play-in game against Boston. Westbrook made an impact all over the court, finishing the game with 18 points, 15 assists, and eight rebounds while Hachimura added a jolt of jump shooting finesse to Washington’s scoring prowess with 18 points on 6-of-8 shooting.
The momentum from the second quarter carried over into the second half, with the Wizards outscoring the Pacers 48-31 in the third behind a dominant 16-point stretch from Brad that saw him hit five of his six attempts.
In a game with so much at stake, the fans in attendance at Capital One Arena witnessed BB and Westbrook play with a flair that made everything look easy. The two stars genuinely looked like they were enjoying themselves on the floor, with one particular highlight of Westbrook finding Brad on a backdoor cut to the rim producing one of the best photos of the season that perfectly encapsulates the relationship between the two.
With the game in hand by the fourth quarter and the Wizards up by as many as 38 points, they were able to clear the bench and give Brad some much-needed rest, ending his night with 25 points on a productive 9-of-17 shooting.
The Wizards are now set to face the conference-leading Philadelphia 76ers and MVP candidate Joel Embiid in the first round of the playoffs. The series begins on Sunday, with Game 1 starting at 1:00 p.m on TNT.