July 23, 2014

Wizards vs Pacers Game 1 Recap: Total Team Effort Leads To Victory For Washington

Despite several comeback attempts by the Indiana Pacers, the Washington Wizards secured early control of the Eastern Conference Semifinals with their fourth road win of the postseason, 102-96.

While the two teams were separated by just six points on the scoreboard, Indiana was only in front for a mere 15-seconds in the second quarter. Other than that, it was all Wizards, all the time.

Washington began the game on a roll and immediately made the hometown crowd a non-factor. Trevor Ariza nailed two of his game-high six three pointers within the first minute of the game to help lead the Wizards to an early 8-0 lead.

Behind 11 first-quarter points from Ariza, Washington found themselves up 28-15 entering the second quarter. As we’ve seen throughout the postseason, however, the Wizards have gotten into a bad habit of letting their opponents back into a game in the second quarter. As we saw Monday night, old habits die hard.

The Pacers started the quarter on a roll with a 14-2 run to take the lead 31-30 with 8:15 remaining in the period. As Washington was able to do throughout the contest, they responded with a run of their own to retake control. After trading shots over the next three minutes, the Wizards pulled away to end the half.

In the final five minutes of the first half, Washington closed on a 15-6 run to take a 56-43 halftime lead. Any sort of momentum that the Pacers had built, the Wizards had quickly taken away. Ariza and Bradley Beal combined to go 3-for-4 from behind the arc in the final push before halftime.

After building a 60-44 lead in the opening minutes of the second half, Indiana began to chip away at the Wizards’ lead. To finish off a third quarter in which the two teams combined for just 32 points, Lance Stephenson scored nine points in the quarter as the Pacers closed the lead to seven on an 18-9 run.

Once again, the Wizards responded. Thanks to two free throws from Drew Gooden (12 points, 13 rebounds) and a three from Andre Miller, Washington widened their lead to 12, 74-62. For much of the fourth quarter, it was a back and forth battle where the Wizards were able to match Indiana shot for shot.

With five minutes remaining, Washington had it’s largest lead of the half, 92-78. All things seemed to be going their way, especially after a technical fouled was assessed to Indiana’s David West. For a third time, however, Indiana began to claw their way back into the contest.

It wasn’t all due to an elevated level of play by the Pacers, unfortunately, as Washington made it’s fair-share of mistakes. Following West’s technical foul, Beal missed three free throws and the Wizards committed several turnovers. With just two minutes remaining, the Pacers were lurking down 10 points.

Washington struggled at the free throw line for much of the second half, but it was their ability to make their freebies in the clutch that iced the game. In the final minute, Indiana made four three pointers. While the Pacers were hot from behind the arc, the Wizards made their final nine free throws to stay out front and secure the victory.

The scoreboard doesn’t show just how much better the Wizards were on this night. Washington out-rebounded Indiana 53-36 and held the advantage in assists 23-16. They made 10 threes and shot 41.7-percent from the floor.

Possibly the biggest advantage for the Wizards was the biggest man of the floor, Roy Hibbert. In 18 minutes, Hibbert failed to score or grab a rebound and committed five fouls. In the paint for the Wizards, Nene and Marcin Gortat combined for 27 points and 21 rebounds (15 rebounds for Gortat).

The front-court battle was also won by the Wizards. While George Hill had 18 points, it’s important to note that six of those came in a meaningless final-minute rally. Paul George finished with 18 points, but Ariza bested that with 22 points of his own.

A new dynamic duo is forming in the NBA with Beal and Wall. Beal poured in a game-high 25 points, seven assists and five steals. While Wall scored just 13 points on 4-of-14 shooting, he recorded a game-high nine assists. Wall was the leader on the floor and Beal took advantage of the opportunities created by him.

Washington is a perfect 4-0 on the road in the playoffs and certainly didn’t seem phased by the Indiana faithful on Monday in their Game 1 victory. The series stays in Indiana for Game 2 on Wednesday night. Tipoff is set for 7 PM EST.

Washington Wizards vs Indiana Pacers Game 1 Preview

On Monday night, the Washington Wizards and Indiana Pacers will go head-to-head in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Semifinals matchup. Series features teams that seem almost opposite of each other.

On the one hand, you’ve got the youthful and energetic Wizards. On the other, you’ve got the question mark that is the Pacers. After dominating for much of the regular season, they slowed near the end, but still entered the playoffs as the number-one seed in the east. For the Wizards, they fought tooth and nail all season long for their fifth-seed.

The Pacers biggest asset, literally, has been seemingly invisible this postseason. After averaging 10.8 points and 6.6 rebounds per game in the regular season, 7-2 center Roy Hibbert has barely managed half that in the postseason. Defensively, he hasn’t been effective as his blocks and steals are half that of his regular season averages, as well.

That could very well be where the Wizards hold the upper hand in this matchup. While John Wall and Bradley Beal have been a back-court duo to be feared, the impact that Nene and Marcin Gortat can have on this series is undeniable. The Wizards’ big men have both seen a minutes increase in the postseason and they are making those minutes count.

Gortat has been averaging nearly a double-double with 10 points and nine rebounds per game this postseason. His heart and hustle in the low-post has been very beneficial for Washington. In their series-clinching Game 5 win over the Chicago Bulls, Gortat grabbed 13 rebounds, a playoff-high for him.

Just as important, if not more important, has been the play of Nene. After scoring 24 points to lead the Wizards to their Game 1 victory in Chicago, Nene then cooled a bit to score 17 and 10 points in Games 2 and 3. After serving his one game suspension, Nene returned with a vengeance to drop 20 points, grab seven rebounds and dish four assists in the decisive Game 5.

The one player on the Pacers’ front-court that Washington will need to defend and defend well is David West. The 10-year veteran power forward is averaging 13.4 points per game this postseason, highlighted by a 24-point performance in Game 6 to stave off elimination. It’s also important to note that Hibbert did have a 13-point game in Game 7, so it should be interesting to see if that’s the start of something big for him.

For the Wizards, the fact that they got out of the first round is a shock to many. As highlighted by the team’s Twitter page shortly after their series victory, all but one of the experts at ESPN had Chicago winning that series. Much of Washington’s success, however, was due to their ability to eliminate home-court advantage.

The series will open up in Indiana, but Washington has proven that playing on the road doesn’t phase them. They are 3-0 on the road this postseason and outscored the Bulls 278-261 in Chicago. That is no small task in front of the playoff atmosphere you usually find from the hometown crowd.

The last time the Wizards made the second round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs, they were swept by the Miami Heat in 2005. If you want to find their last berth in the conference finals, then you need to go all the way by to 1979 when they eventually lost to the then Seattle Supersonics in the NBA Finals.

The second round of the playoffs start Monday night. Tipoff for Game 1 is set of 7 PM EST in Indiana.

Nene Leads Wizards Past Bulls in First Round of Eastern Conference Playoffs

With Nene back in their lineup, the Washington Wizards defeated the Chicago Bulls 75-69 in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference Playoff series to advance to the second round of the NBA Playoffs for the first time since 2005.

Nene established himself early on for the Wizards in the closeout game. After his ejection in Game 3 rendered him suspended for Game 4, he returned with a vengeance on Tuesday night. He made his presence felt early for Washington and flexed his muscle throughout the game.

In the midst of a back and forth battle between the two teams, the big Brazilian registered his first of six first-quarter points just a few minutes in. For a couple of teams that have thrived off of their defensive play this season, there wasn’t much of it from Washington and Randy Wittman took a timeout with 4:58 left. After the timeout, the Wizards began to turn up the heat.

Thanks in part to four points off the bench from Trevor Booker, the Wizards closed out the quarter on a 10-5 run to take a 23-15 lead into the second quarter. Washington shot an impressive 55-percent from the floor while the Bulls shot an uninspired 26-percent. The crowd was out of the game and everything looked to be going the Wizards’ way.

In the second quarter, it was an entirely different game. After shooting a low percentage in the first quarter, Chicago couldn’t miss in the second. At one point, Washington found themselves on the wrong end of a 21-9 run. Thanks to a John Wall and-1 in the final minute, the Wizards survived the second quarter surge to be tied with the Bulls 41-41 at the half.

Washington then came out of the gate strong for the third quarter and relied on Nene to carry them. Washington outscored Chicago 20-11 in the period and eight points were from Nene. While the NBA Defensive Player of the Year Joakim Noah tried his best, he was no match for the Wizards’ big man.

As Washington took a 61-52 lead into the fourth quarter, it became clear early on that the Bulls weren’t going away quietly in front of the hometown crowd. Chicago opened up the quarter on a 7-4 run including an and-1 play from Taj Gibson. Just minutes after he made the play, Gibson was removed from the game with an ankle injury.

The Wizards struggled to shoot the ball in the fourth quarter (just 5-of-18), but was able to fall back on heart and hustle to win the game. Booker, Marcin Gortat and Nene were all over the court winning the loose balls and creating second-chance opportunities. The trio combined for eight rebounds and countless hustle plays that won’t show up in the stat sheet.

Possibly the biggest play this season for the Wizards is one of those plays. With just over 16-second remaining, Andre Miller went to the line with an opportunity to make it a two-score game and all but seal the victory. He missed the first, and then following his miss on the second free throw, Nene back-slapped the ball out to Bradley Beal. Beal went on to sink his pair and seal the win.

Nene finished off the contest with 20 points to go along with seven rebounds and seven assists. Wall dropped a game-high 24 points and added just as many rebounds and assists as Nene. Beal poured in 17 points and Gortat led the Wizards with 13 rebounds. It was a total team effort as each man provided quality minutes.

Washington will now face the winner of the Indiana Pacers-Atlanta Hawks series. Currently, the eighth-seeded Hawks lead the top-seeded Pacers 3-2. On Thursday night, the two will face off in Indiana for Game 6 at 7 PM EST.

Wizards vs Bulls Game 5 Preview: Expect A Physical, But Focused, Washington Team

On Tuesday night in Chicago, the Washington Wizards and Chicago Bulls will add a fifth chapter to their epic NBA Eastern Conference Playoff series. After a convincing 98-89 win last Sunday, the Wizards are poised to win their first postseason series since 2005, the last time they faced Chicago in the playoffs.

After picking up the first two games of the series on the road, the Wizards then split their two-game home stint. The first home playoff game since 2008 was highlighted by Nene’s ejection for a scuffle with Chicago’s Jimmy Butler in the fourth quarter. While they were without the Brazilian for Game 4, they still picked up the victory in a rather authoritative manner.

Even though they found plenty of success without him, the Wizards are adamant that they need their big man back. After all, it was his 24 points and eight rebounds that propelled them to victory in Game 1.

“Of course we need him,” Marcin Gortat told reporters. “He’s a great basketball player. He’s so powerful and he dominates his position.”

As the series heads back to Chicago, the physical nature of this series will only intensify. With the exception of Nene’s ejection, it’s been the Bulls playing the role of aggressor. One area where they have really tightened things is up in the paint. They’ve adjusted to crash more on defense, especially when the ball finds Nene.

That kind of power and physicality that Nene brings to the floor is going to be ever more needed in what is expected to be an intense Game 5. Already this series, we’ve seen emotions run high. While the Wizards managed to win Game 2, it was certainly a hard fought victory.

“There’s going to be rabid fans [Tuesday], worse than it was in Game 2,” head coach Randy Wittman said. “It’s going to be all ramped up.”

As the Wizards are up 3-1 in the series, the odds certainly seem to be in their favor. Just eight teams have come back from being down 3-1 to win the series. For the Wizards, they’ve got a friendly reminder in their locker room to not fall victim to that.

“I’ve been in this situation before in Orlando being up 3-1 to Detroit,” said Drew Gooden referring to the Magic’s 2003 series with the Pistons. “We know that [Game 5] is a must win for us.”

Getting Nene back and heading on the road, a place where Washington has seemed pretty comfortable this postseason, certainly bodes well for the Wizards. It’s no secret that the Bulls will come scratching and clawing as their backs are against the wall.

At just 23-years of age and in his first ever elimination game in his brief three-year career, point guard John Wall is taking a veteran-like mindset to Tuesday night’s game. While it would be easy for a player with his inexperience to get caught up in the hype, the team leader is staying focused on the task at hand.

“You still haven’t done anything until you win four games,” Wall told reporters. “The main thing is to focus on what we’ve been doing and try to win.”

Washington Wizards Game 4 Recap: Ariza’s 30 Helps Wiz to 3-1 Series Lead Over Bulls

As thousands in the Verizon Center chanted “Free Nene” in honor of their suspended forward, Trevor Ariza carried much of the weight in the Washington Wizards’ commanding 98-89 win over the Chicago Bulls Sunday afternoon.

Ariza recorded a career playoff-high 30 points, completing six of 10 three-pointers, while Bradley Beal, Marcin Gortat and John Wall added 18, 17 and 15 points, respectively.

As Nene served his one-game suspension for grabbing Jimmy Butler’s head in an argument during the Wizards’ Game 3 loss, the Wizards looked to get an early jump on the Bulls in Game 4 to erase any doubts of their ability to carry onward.

They did exactly that – tallying the first 14 points of the game before Chicago could respond.

“Well, we were locked in,” said Wizards head coach Randy Wittman after the game. “I could tell our focus was back yesterday, even with the news of Nene when it came of being suspended. I saw our guys bond together like ‘That’s okay, big fella’s not going to be here, but that’s okay.’ We were in tune right from the start. Extra passes and simple plays, those are the things these guys are going to get tired of hearing me say. They probably can’t wait until this series is over because those are the things I’ve used with them in this series. Make the simple play. Make the easy play and we did that at the start of the game. We got a lot of different guys scoring and when we move the ball like we talked about in Game 3 at the third quarter where we stopped – the ball stopped and people stopped. We can’t play that way and we didn’t fall into that tonight.”

Perhaps even more, Washington enjoyed a tremendous advantage from behind the arc – going 8-for-19 compared to the Bulls’ 4-for-19.

Chicago power forward Taj Gibson did his best to keep his team in the mix, posting 32 points in 32 minutes on the floor, while adding seven rebounds. But, only Butler and Joakim Noah rounded out the Bulls’ double-digit-points club on the night.

The Bulls actually shot with greater efficiency – making 35 of 78 field goals to reach a 44.9 shooting percentage, compared to the Wizards’ 40.7 percent. But, they lacked execution from Game 3 star Mike Dunleavy, as well as Carlos Boozer and Kirk Hinrich.

As has been the case throughout much of the series, the Wizards seemed on pace to run into foul trouble as four players recorded two fouls apiece before the start of halftime. They settled down, however, despite Trevor Booker earning a technical foul from the bench.

Washington cruised to a 28-18 lead to end the first quarter, but the Bulls regained some ground to pull within four points with 7:09 remaining until halftime. From there, Wall sank a jumper before Beal went back-to-back for a combined five points. Gortat rounded out the miniature run with a jumper that put the Wizards back in front by 13 points.

In fact, for the final 3:32 of the half, the game very much consisted of Gibson versus the Wizards. Only Gibson posted baskets for the Bulls – three, to be exact – while the Wizards added another 10 points to their total in the same time frame.

Just as they did in the second quarter, the Wizards outscored the Bulls 27-22 in the third.

In the fourth, the Bulls jumped on a 16-7 run, sparked by early baskets from Gibson and Tony Snell. But, the game ended much as it begun – with powerful drives from Gortat, Ariza and Beal – to hand the Bulls their 98-89 loss.

“I know a lot of people probably doubted us,” Beal said. “We did a great job coming out and focusing in. It started with our defense like [John Wall] said. Once we got out to that 14-0 run at the beginning of the game, we just took off from there. Yeah, [the Bulls] went on that run, but I think we did a great job of staying poised the rest of the game.”

“In two and a half years, we’ve grown and developed those intangibles, you talk about, not just the skill level, but playing the game the right way, doing the right things off the floor as well as on the floor, being professional, as I like to call it,” Wittman said. “I think now these guys are just playing basketball, they understand that this is a job. Playing games like this helps that. Like I said, we haven’t done anything yet. We’ve put ourselves in a position to do something but we have yet to do anything.”

Worth noting is that the Washington Wizards franchise boasts a 5-0 record in closing out a best-of-seven playoff series after taking a 3-1 lead. This record has held true through 1971, 1975, 1978 (twice) and 1979.

Wizards vs Bulls Game 3 Preview: 5 Keys to Victory for Washington

On Friday night at 8 PM EST in the Verizon Center, the Washington Wizards and Chicago Bulls will add a third chapter to their highly contested Eastern Conference Playoffs series.

This past Tuesday night, it took some late game heroics from young Bradley Beal to bring the Wizards to victory. Now up 2-0 in a playoff series for the first time since 1982, Washington has a chance to take a stranglehold on this series. If they want to do just that, here are their five keys to victory.

Key Number 1: Fast Start

The Wizards raced out to a 17-point lead on Tuesday night in Chicago and immediately took the hometown crowd out of it. This will be the first time since 2008 that D.C. has hosted an NBA playoff game, so you know the “Phone Booth” will be wild and crazy. A fast start will keep the crowd into the game and make things that much harder on the Bulls.

Key Number 2: Three-Point Shooting

If Game 3 comes down to which team shoots the three better, then Washington can win the game handily. In their explosive start to Game 2, they shot 5-of-8 from behind the arc. The Wizards made nine threes, including four from Beal, in their overtime win on Tuesday night. If they can continue to shoot well from downtown, they’ll take care of business.

Key Number 3: Make The Free Ones

After shooting 74 percent from the free throw line in Game 1, Washington managed just 57 percent in Game 2. Had they made their free throws in the second half, Tuesday’s would have never gone to overtime. If the Wizards can make the freebies, they should have no problem taking Game 3.

Key Number 4: Front-Court Play

After combining for 39 points and 21 rebounds in Game 1, the front-court duo of Nene and Marcin Gortat contributed just 24 points and 12 rebounds in Game 2. Luckily for Washington, the guard play was much improved and they picked up the slack. Nene played well in the first quarter and overtime of Game 2, but Washington will need him playing like he did in Game 1 for them to have their best shot at winning.

Key Number 5: Guard Play

Note that that doesn’t say back-court play, but rather guard play. More specifically, this is referring to John Wall and Beal. While they totaled 29 points in Game 1, Game 2 saw them pour in 44 points. As mentioned in key number four, the front-court struggled, but that back-court picked up the slack. If Beal and Wall can duplicate their Game 2 efforts Friday night, Washington should take care of business.

With a win on Friday night, the Wizards will have a chance to sweep Chicago out of the playoffs at home in Game 4. If they can take care of these five keys, then Sunday night’s game will be an exciting one for D.C as they’ll try to win their first playoff series since 2005.

Bradley Beal’s Late-Game Heroics Lift Washington Wizards To 2-0 Series Lead Over Chicago Bulls

After game one of the series saw the front-court duo of Nene and Marcin Gortat lead the Washington Wizards to victory, the back-court tandem of Bradley Beal and John Wall led the way to a dramatic 101-99 win in overtime to give Washington a 2-0 series lead over the Chicago Bulls.

Last Sunday, Beal and Wall combined for just 29 points. On Tuesday night, the young guards totaled 44 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists. With Gortat and Nene struggling, it was clear the guards were going to have to win this game. For Beal, he took the game into his own hands late and shined.

Washington came out fast and made their first three shots to jump out to a 7-0 lead to start the game. At one point, the Wizards lead by 17, but took an 11 point lead into the second quarter. It was as good a quarter as we have seen all season and they had taken the crowd out of the game.

At the four-minute mark in the second quarter, Beal and Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich locked horns in an emotional moment that warranted double technicals. From that point forward, the game became much more physical. The once quiet hometown crowd came alive and the fight was on.

Along with a new-found intensity, Chicago also discovered quite the trio in D.J. Augustin, Taj Gibson and Hinrich. For the game, Augustin led with 25 points, but the trio poured in 59 points. In the second quarter, the Wizards didn’t have an answer for them defensively. With those three on the floor, the Bulls closed the lead to seven at halftime.

Throughout the regular season, the Wizards had a difficult time coming out of the locker room strong for the second half. On Tuesday night, they once again fell victim to that bad habit. Chicago outscored Washington 26-14 in the third quarter to take a five point lead into the final period.

Washington was then able to match Chicago’s intensity in a fourth quarter battle for the ages. With Nene, Wall and Beal all in foul trouble, everything seemed to be going the way of the Bulls. However, it was the Wizards’ youngest star that took the game over.

20-year old Bradley Beal dropped 11 fourth-quarter points to tie the game and force overtime. He showcased his wide array of skills by making two threes, but also finishing at the rim. While he did spoil a chance to take the lead in the final minute, it was his effort that gave Washington new life.

Washington jumped out to a 97-91 lead to begin the extra period thanks to six points from Nene. Trevor Booker and Wall then combined to go 4-for-4 from the free throw line to put the game just out of reach.

With two seconds remaining, Kirk Hinrich drove to the basket, guarded by Nene. Hinrich attempted a layup, but a foul was called on Nene, his sixth. The veteran Bulls’ guard then missed both free throws and Washington was able to secure the game winning rebound.

The Wizards now take a 2-0 lead in the series and head back to D.C. and hometown crowd at the Verizon Center. While it’s difficult for a team to comeback from being down 2-0, the past two games have been too closely contested to assume the Wizards can wrap it up at home.

The series now heads back to D.C. with the Wizards in control two games to none. Game three tips off in the Verizon Center on Friday night at 8 PM EST.

Washington Wizards Game 2 Recap: Wiz Narrowly Edge Bulls to Take 2-0 Series Lead

After charging out of the gates in Game 1, the Washington Wizards clawed back from a sloppy second half to top the Chicago Bulls 101-99 Tuesday night in an overtime contest littered with sloppy mistakes, questionable foul calls and missed free baskets.

But, just as it appeared Game 2 had all but slipped from the Wizards’ grasp, Nene once again emerged from the dust, this time to help undo the damage of the third and fourth quarters.

Early in the night, it appeared the Wizards were on pace to shut down the Bulls from start to finish. On the backs of Bradley Beal and John Wall, Washington leaped to a swift 17-point lead before the close of the first quarter. By evening’s end, Beal recorded 26 points and Wall added another 16 to Washington’s efforts.

But the earliest signs of a moment change surfaced in the final 1:41 of the first, when D.J. Augustin began to pester Washington, posting a quick eight points to pull Chicago within 11.

The Bulls outscored the Wizards in the second quarter, 29-25. Along with Joakim Noah, Augustin continued to hurt Washington. Perhaps more importantly, the Bulls accomplished something the Wizards struggled with throughout the night — they made their free throws.

Washington fell asleep in the third quarter, posting just 14 points to compete with the Bulls’ 26. Worse yet, the Wizards quickly found themselves in foul trouble with their backs against the wall.

Yet, somehow, Nene fueled Washington’s resurgence in the five extra minutes of basketball. He opened overtime with a two-point shot before slamming one in to put the Wizards up 95-91 with 3:24 remaining.

At long last, the Wizards sank their free throws to remain in front. As irony would have it, with Kirk Hinrich at the line, the Bulls found themselves a pair of missed free throws away from catching Washington. Instead, the Wizards held on to win it, marking the first time since 1982 that Washington has led a playoff series 2-0.

Washington Wizards Game 82 Recap: Wizards Rout Celtics to Clinch No. 5 Seed in East

Photo tweeted by @DrewGooden with the caption "Headed back DC! Let's get it!!"

Photo tweeted by @DrewGooden with the caption “Headed back DC! Let’s get it!!”

Bradley Beal scored 27 points and all five of the Washington Wizards’ starters reached double-digit scoring as the Wiz Kids topped the Boston Celtics 118-102 at TD Garden Wednesday night.

With the win, the Wizards finish the regular season six games above .500 and secure the Eastern Conference’s No. 5 seed. Washington will take on the Chicago Bulls in their first playoff appearance since 2008.

At the end of the first quarter, it was clear Washington was going to run with the lead. John Wall tallied 13 of the Wizards’ 38 points in the first 12 minutes of play, and the team played like a cohesive unit counting down the days to the postseason.

The Celtics nearly matched the Wizards’ efforts in the second quarter as Chris Johnson and Jeff Green helped the team to a quick 11-3 run. With roughly six minutes left in the half, Nene and Beal hit a three each to keep the Celtics at bay and Washington took advantage of free baskets to end the half up 68-56.

The third proved a slower quarter for both teams. Washington went nearly two and a half minutes before sinking a basket and, in that time frame, Boston pulled within four points.

But, at last, it was the Wizards’ night to celebrate the end of the regular season, knowing there is still basketball left to be played.

In the final five minutes of play, Washington went on an offensive drive, shutting down the Celtics to regain a 16-point lead to end of the quarter.

Beal had a field day in the fourth, posting 12 points to help the Wizards write off the season with a 118-102 win.

The Wizards will first face the No. 4 Chicago Bulls (44-34) on the road on Easter Sunday, April 20, at 7:00 p.m. ET.

Game two will take place in Chicago on Tuesday, April 22 at 9:30 p.m. ET.

And, the Washington Wizards will return home Friday, April 28, to take on the Bulls in an ESPN primetime game at 8:00 p.m. ET.

Game four is slated for Sunday, April 27 at 1:00 p.m.

If necessary, game five will take place in Chicago on Tuesday, April 29; game six will take place in Washington on Thursday, May 1, and Game seven will send the two teams back to Chicago for a sudden-death matchup on Saturday, May 3.

Washington Wizards Game 75 Recap: Wiz Dominate Celtics to Secure Playoff Berth

Photo courtesy of Monumental Sports

Photo courtesy of Monumental Sports

For the first time since 2008, the Washington Wizards are playoff-bound.

Long before time ran out on the Wizards’ 118-92 win over the Boston Celtics Wednesday night, the truth set in: Washington will be treated to extra basketball this spring, and Wall will, at long last, make his postseason debut.

“It’s great, it’s everything I’ve been waiting for as a point guard and trying to learn how to lead in this league and become a better player but also I think the fans deserve it,” Wall said. “The tough time they went through of them booing us and us feeling bad when we’re not playing good or playing the right way and having the right people around the organization. Those guys in the front office and the coaching staff are doing a great job of building us as players and trusting in their system and going out there and playing as a group and one whole team… It means a lot.”

Wall posted 13 points and 10 assists in Wednesday’s contest as the Wizards worked their way to a 62.5 field goal percentage – their highest in a game since 2001.

And, though the road to the top of the Eastern Conference was paved nicely for Washington this season, for many in the District who have stuck through the Wiz Kids’ past few seasons, the reality of a playoff berth takes some getting used to.

“I’m just as thrilled too,” said Wizards head coach Randy Wittman. “This is an opportunity for me as a head coach, this is my first time and I’m looking forward to it. But we have seven games. We kept saying, let’s get ourselves in… [I say all the time that] I’m worried about how we’re playing and the process we’re going about, more than getting a win here and there, and wins and losses take care of themselves. [Wednesday's win] is a perfect example of that. This is the most we have swung that ball side to side for 48 minutes in a long time and it gets you 29 assists. We have to play that way. We got stagnant in Charlotte the other night in the third quarter where the ball never moved.

“You’re going to have lapses,” he continued. “There are good lapses and bad lapses. You miss open shots, you miss a couple of free throws here and there, and the other team goes on a run. I didn’t think we had a bad lapse today where one guy came down nine times and dribbled the ball and took a shot. Or we threw one pass and took a shot, unless it was a wide open shot. I know these guys were itching for this, and I know they peeked in the video room at half time to check on the New York score and they were up 35. I told them we have to go out and do it ourselves.”

And so, they did.

Marvin Gortat led Washington’s scoring effort with 22 points, but all five of the Wizards’ starters reached double-digit points before day’s end.

“I think we just played the right way,” Gortat said. “I just think we played the right way, we were swinging the ball perfectly. We had an in-and-out game. We ran different stuff and each one of us contributed to that win. It was a great night.”

From the opposite side of the court, Jared Sullinger did his best to prevent the Celtics from dropping their sixth straight game, adding 25 points to their total. But, Boston failed to ever take the lead and posted dismal numbers across the board.

In fact, less than five minutes into the game, the Celtics trailed by 15 points. Their late turnovers proved costly and, on the whole, their three-point strategy just did not work – they shot 3 for 24 from behind the arc. In fact, they struggled to find the net from all areas of the court, as they shot just 39.5 percent from the field on the night.

And still, several of the Celtics paused to recognize the fact that the night marked a moment Wall has long awaited.

“I wish him well,” Celtics guard Rajon Rondo said after the game. “It’ll be fun, exciting. Every game is on T.V. Guys love to play on T.V., I know I do. It’ll be fun. I’m sure he’s been waiting for this opportunity, I think he’s been like four or five years. For such a young guy to have so much pressure on him, having a franchise on his back, and he’s finally able to get to the playoffs, I’m sure it’s kind of like a burden lifted off of him. I’m sure he doesn’t want to settle there. I’m sure he wants to win, but you just have to take it one series at a time.”

Yet, as the Wizards may look to cruise through the remaining regular-season matchups, perhaps none can breathe quite the same sigh of relief as Wittman himself who, in little more than two years with the Wizards, assumed responsibility of fulfilling the do-or-die mantra.

“I think we stuck together,” he said. “It’s a great group of guys that the front office put together and we stuck together. We’ve been through a lot of ups and downs, a lot of injuries here and there, but ever since the last couple of years we built it. Now we have the pieces together and now we’re in the playoffs.”

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