Hate it or love it, the NBA’s play-in tournament is at least keeping this postseason interesting.
Things were looking bleak for the Washington Wizards on Tuesday after the Boston Celtics pulled down their pants and spanked them on national television. But with their playoff hopes fading and their backs against the wall on Thursday, they had two options: either dig deep and destroy the Indiana Pacers or spend another postseason watching from home like the rest of us.
They chose the former.
Bradley Beal dropped 25 points, Russell Westbrook nearly delivered a triple-double, and after leading by as many as 38 points, once the Wizards were finished kicking the Pacers’ asses up and down the court, the final score was 142-115.
As a reward for their merciless assault on their opponents’ dignity, they now get to face Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and the rest of the Philadelphia 76ers as the Eastern Conference’s eighth seed.
“Russell has an edge, guys, and I think the world should appreciate that,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks told reporters after the game. “He gives you everything. He’s a hooper. And sometimes, he’s an angry hooper. But he’s a hooper that just plays the right way and plays hard.”
I don’t know about playing the right way, but he’s helped propel the Wizards into the postseason for the first time in three years so let me not shit in his Cheerios...yet.
“We were struggling,” Westbrook admitted, in reference to the team’s early-season woes. “Everybody was doubting us on the outside and we had to knuckle up.”
He ain’t lying. Washington’s up and down season was marred by injuries (with Thomas Bryant out for the year) and lapses in defense; and at one point, as many as nine players were in the league’s health and safety protocols after being diagnosed with COVID-19. But in a league in which almost the entire league has faced similar challenges—even the reigning champs are sneaking in the playoffs as only a seventh seed (good luck with that, Suns)—the Wizards didn’t make any excuses. They’ve simply made it a point to show up when it mattered.
“They got on a roll,” Indiana’s Malcolm Brogdon said after the game. “They got two elite players on that team and they’re at home. Once guys like that get their confidence going in the second quarter and start rolling, there’s not much you can do.”
Considering the Wizards shit down the Pacers’ throats with 48 points in the third quarter, I’d say that’s a pretty accurate assessment—and if you let them tell it, they’re just getting started.
“We have a lot of noise to make,” Beal said.
The Memphis Grizzlies and Golden State Steph Currys face off tonight for the Western Conference’s 8th seed, then the playoffs will officially begin this weekend.