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Washington Wizards hope to steal a playoff bid after up and down season

Anyone who has followed the Washington Wizards this entire season knows the rollercoaster ride the team has been on. 

At the start of this season, the team had many unknowns, but fans also had a good amount of expectations for this group. They shook up the NBA when they acquired Russell Westbrook from Houston in a trade for the longtime face of the franchise John Wall. 

While it came suddenly, it was not fully unexpected for Wall to be moved by the team. However, while some people questioned the move for the perennial all-star and electric point guard, others began to wonder if the Wizards could hold their own at the top of the Eastern Conference led by the backcourt of Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook. 

When the season started the Wizards looked horrible, stumbling out of the gate to a 3-12 start and losing to some of the bottom feeders of the league. There were a few bright moments highlighted by the miraculous last second comeback against the Brooklyn Nets to win 146-145. However, at 6-17 over a quarter of the way into the season the Wizards were in an awful spot. 

Coach Scott Brooks was a part of the problem as well, and even though the team was not fully healthy, they had s no excuse for the Wizards to be losing as much as they were. Then seemingly out of nowhere the Wizards rattled off five straight wins and six of seven before the All-Star break knocking off some of the best teams in the entire NBA. This run showed who the Wizards can be when they are healthy and playing connected basketball. 

Bradley Beal had made the comment at the start of the season that the Wizards “cannot guard a parked car,” but even that had changed during this run. Then post All- Star break and with new found hope to at least squeak into the NBA’s brand new play in games, the Wizards faced some brutally tough opponents. 

Unfortunately, losing 8 of 9 with the only win coming against one of the league’s best in the Utah Jazz. At this point, it seemed like the team was done, as Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal put up big numbers it was never enough to accumulate wins. Then after another 2-4 stretch the Wizards had fallen to 17-32 with a difficult west coast road trip looming and not much positive energy at all from anyone in the organization. 

Some outside fans had even rumored of Bradley Beal getting traded before the approaching trade deadline. Instead, the Wizards made a move and acquired Daniel Gafford and Chandler Hutchison from the Chicago Bulls. As it sits now, this move was arguably the best made by any team in the league. Gafford has brought a toughness and paint presence that has shown up in massive moments down the stretch of games. 

With Gafford and the team fully healthy, the Wizards tied a franchise record with eight straight wins and 10 of 11 to vault themselves back into the playoff picture. With Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal continuing to play at a high level, the Wizards gained national attention. 

Since then they have managed to go 3-3 with each loss being by two points or less. Russell Westbrook just passed Oscar Robertson for the most Triple-Doubles in league history with 182 and the Wizards sit in 10th in the Eastern Conference. That would be enough to make the play in a game which is new this year. They would play the ninth seeded Pacers in one game, and if they won, would play the loser of the 7 and 8 seed for a spot in the playoffs. However, with 3 games left, the Wizards hope they can chase down Charlotte for the eighth seed and make their lives a lot easier in terms of actually making it into a playoff series. Overall, this season has been crazy, and each game seems to come down to the final shot. The Wizards and Russell Westbrook have been must-see TV for the past month or so, and it would be fun to play the one or two seed in the East in a seven-game series. After all the ups and downs, it is somewhat remarkable that they are even in this position, and it gives the organization and fans hope for the near future.

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