The Wizards are already facing elimination in the bubble.
The Washington Wizards barely qualified for the NBA bubble in Orlando and showed up with a dismal 24-40 record and without their best player in Bradley Beal. That didn’t exactly scream “playoff contender.”
But the team was given hope with the rule that a ninth-place team within four games of eighth place at the end of the regular season would be in a play-in scenario for that final spot. A great opportunity presented itself Sunday when the Wizards took on the skeleton crew that is the Brooklyn Nets.
Unfortunately, they couldn’t take advantage of it.
The Wizards fall short again
The Wizards opened play in the bubble with a loss against the Phoenix Suns. That had the team sitting six games behind the Nets entering play Sunday. A win would get the team within one game of that magical four-game deficit needed for the tournament. Alas, the final result was a 118-110 loss in which Caris LaVert and Joe Harris dominated for Brooklyn.
Washington entered the bubble with more than just a disadvantage in the standings. Beal is not with the team as he continues to recover from shoulder surgery. He’s the team’s leader scorer this season at 30.5 points per game.
The Wizards are also without sharpshooter Davis Bertans, who is next with 15.4 points per game. That left Thomas Bryant as the leader scorer Sunday with 30 points, while Troy Brown Jr. finished behind him with 22. The other three starters combined to score 18 points.
Playing against the Nets was a chance to pick up a game in the standings without having to scoreboard-watch. The Wizards are now seven games back with six to play and have to pick up three in the standings with a brutal remaining schedule.
The Wizards face the Indiana Pacers on Monday, followed by the Philadelphia 76ers, New Orleans Pelicans, Oklahoma City Thunder, Milwaukee Bucks, and finally the Boston Celtics. Can you pick out one potential win in there, unless teams rest starters late in the schedule?
Washington showed up as the worst team in the bubble and will only take on teams fighting for playoff spots. That makes the uphill climb even steeper and the Wizards may be playing simply for pride (and money) beginning early next week.
The only hope now is for a total collapse by the Nets or the Orlando Magic. However, the Wizards would still need to go around 5-1 or 4-2 against that tough schedule.
Playing without Beal and Bertans allows other players to step up and the team should benefit from being invited. The alternative is not playing a competitive game for up to nine months, which could set several other non-playoff teams back in terms of development.
The Wizards aren’t technically eliminated just yet. But losing against the Nets on Sunday proved the team just doesn’t have what it takes to make a run into the play-in scenario.