The Washington Wizards clinched their first Playoffs berth since 2008 Wednesday as they destroyed the Boston Celtics 118-92. All five Wizards starters contributed 10-plus points in the contest, a feat which Washington nearly duplicated Friday night against the Playoffs-hungry New York Knicks.
"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," said Wall Wednesday, after the clincher. "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." That group did their thing once again Friday night, as everyone but Trevor Booker scored 10-plus for a hard-fought victory.
While the Celtics never led in what was an otherwise tank-worthy performance, the Knicks were hoping to fight for the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference. Led by wildcard J.R. Smith, who scored a game-high 32 points on the night, the Knicks led by as many as 7 points in the third quarter. In the fourth, however, one Bradley Beal would pull the Wizards irrevocably ahead.
Beal scored a team-high 28 points on an efficient 12-for-22 from the field. He didn't knock down a three-ball outside of the first quarter (and went 1-for-8 for his troubles), but he led Washington during crunch time as he scored half of their 26 fourth quarter points.
Beal's final, sweetest look, came with 22.9 seconds to go, as he swished a 20-foot jumper. Knicks hero Smith had a chance 25-feet out near center behind the three-point arc, but it was an awkward shot off a loose ball. In the end, Washington's defense prevailed. Most notably, Knicks centerpiece Carmelo Anthony went a dismal 5-for-14 from the field, 0-for-4 from deep.
The Wizards 90-89 win knocked the Knicks to 9th place in the East, as Washington attempts to climb to 5th. They'll face the Chicago Bulls tonight, who are holding on to 4th despite the absence of Derrick Rose. The Wizards have 6 more games to go, including tonight's home game against the Bulls (7:00 p.m. ET, CSN).
"We definitely got to keep our seed where it is and hopefully move higher," said Beal, as he looked forward following Washington's win over the Celtics. "We play Chicago, we play Charlotte again, so we are trying to chase Chicago, but Charlotte is on our tails. We definitely got to focus on each game." Last but not least, the Wizards will close their season at Boston. With all six of their remaining games against Eastern Conference teams, the opportunity to advance will be in Washington's hands.