The Washington Wizards have plenty of excuses for their lack of success early in the season whether it be their six-player COVID-19 outbreak or numerous injuries including losing Deni Avdija and Thomas Bryant to season enders. At 0-5, 3-12, 6-17, or 15-28, the Wizards could have completely fallen apart in a chaotic and condensed season, but that would not be the Russell Westbrook way. Fast forward and Washington has won 11 of their past 13 games including an 8-game winning streak to match the longest since Michael Jordan’s team in 2001.
Following an impressive 116-107 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers, granted without LeBron James, the Wizards are 28-34 and have a two-game lead over Chicago and Toronto for the 10-seed and final spot in the Eastern Conference play-in tournament. Washington missed an opportunity to tie the franchise’s longest win streak of nine with an overtime loss to the Spurs on Monday but put that behind them with an eye-opening performance in their lone national television game. Daniel Gafford, Chandler Hutchison, and Rui Hachimura all had highlight-reel dunks to compliment the typical steady production from the All-Star backcourt.
Rui Hachimura puts Anthony Davis on a POSTER 😳
The stare back
The Bradley Beal on his head
— Hoop District (@Hoop_District) April 29, 2021
Bradley Beal is currently holding off Steph Curry (31.2) as the NBA’s leading scorer at 31.3 points per game with career-high shooting percentages from the field (48.8%) and the free-throw line (90.0%). Unlike earlier in the season when battling a lingering quad injury, Russell Westbrook is healthy and playing his best basketball on the court for the Wizards to complement his consistently stellar leadership. Westbrook recorded his 30th triple-double of the season in just his 55th game for Washington with a stellar 18 points, 18 rebounds, 14 assists, and just two turnovers stat line. The future Hall of Famer is now just six triple-doubles away from surpassing Oscar Robertson on the all-time list.
“None of those teams in the Eastern Conference want to see the Wizards with Russ and Bradley in the playoffs,” Charles Barkley logically noted on TNT last week. “They’re going to win the play-in. I love Russ and Bradley Beal. To me, I pay to watch Russell Westbrook play basketball.”
Washington has 10 regular-season games left of which 7 of the next 8 will be on the road where they will hope to maintain their position in the play-in format if not improve their seeding. The Wizards are just two games behind the Hornets (30-32) for the 8-seed and 1.5 games back of the Pacers (29-32) for the 9-seed. Getting to the 8-seed or better and only needing a single win out of two games to earn a playoff series will be instrumental as opposed to needing back-to-back victories as a 9 or 10-seed.