Part 5, A memorable playoff run
Down the stretch run of the season, the Wizards had one goal in mind; do not finish with the seventh or eighth seed. If they did get one of those seeds, they would have to face either the Miami Heat or the Indiana Pacers, each of which they were unlikely to beat or have any chance of beating in the playoffs. With under two weeks left in the season, the Wizards were trying to fend off the seventh seeded Charlotte Bobcats to maintain the sixth seed heading into the playoffs. However, in the fifth to last game of the season, they lost a 94-88 overtime game to the Bobcats which evened their records at 40-38 and gave the Bobcats the sixth seed. Charlotte then lost their next game to the Boston Celtics and the Wizards won their last four games to secure the sixth seed with a 44-38 record. They then got bumped up to the fifth seed When the Brooklyn Nets lost their last two games which meant that the Wizards were slated to go up against the number one defensive team in the league, the Chicago Bulls.
Not many analysts and experts flinched to predict the Bulls to take this series in five or six games. Although the Wizards were a talented team with veterans that have been there and done that, no one gave them a chance. 24 out of the 25 ESPN experts picked the Bulls to win this series.
Those experts were quick to second guess themselves after the performance that Brazilian big man Nene put up in game one. He scored 12 points in the first quarter and finished the game with 24 points and 8 rebounds. The Wizards pulled away late to take 102-93 victory on the road. Then it was on to game two, and as expected, a very few amount of people thought that Washington would take a 2-0 lead in the series. This one looked like it was slipping away from the Wizards, then, in a flash everything changed. Bradley Beal came on really strong late in regulation of his second career playoff game. He hit a couple of clutch threes down the stretch to help the Wizards rally from a 10 point deficit in the fourth and force overtime, he finished with 26. In Overtime, it was the veteran Nene taking over again, as he scored six of his 17 points in the extra period and the Wizards beat the Chicago Bulls 101-99 to take a shocking 2-0 series lead.
All of a sudden everyone was on Washington’s side. “The Bulls do not have a number one scorer, of course they can not beat a complete team like the Washington Wizards.” This is what you would hear all over the place in the next few days. Why didnt you experts say this before the series? The answer is simple, the Chicago Bulls have been on National Television 20 times every year over the past, well, ever. The Wizards have not had a Nationally Televised game since 2009 so no one knew what to expect.
The Bulls took game three 100-97, but a dominate performance by Trevor Ariza, who scored 30 points on 6/10 shooting from downtown, led the Wizards a 98-89 win in game four to give them a commanding 3-1 lead in the series. The Wizards would close out the series in game five, winning a sluggish and low scoring contest 75-69. It was just the third time the Wizards advanced in the postseason since the 1970s.
Their next opponent was an interesting one. The Indiana Pacers finished the year with the best record in the East, but they went 10-13 down the stretch and barely beat the eighth seeded Atlanta Hawks in seven games in round one. Their 7’ 2” big man Roy Hibbert was their biggest problem, as he struggled to get going at any point in the first round of the playoffs and really during the whole second half of the regular season. He continued to struggle against the Wizards as he scored zero points and grabbed zero rebounds in just 17 minutes of play leading to the Wizards 102-96 win in game one.
However, things would change from there on out. Hibbert got things going in game two finding his touch and scoring 28 points on 10/13 shooting from the field. He was a huge part in the Pacers 86-82 victory to even up the series. Indiana took advantage of Washington’s poor shooting (33% from the field) to win game three 85-63. Indiana erased a 19-point deficit in game four as Paul George took over in this one, scoring 39 points and leading the Pacers to a 95-92 victory. It looked like everything was coming back into place for Indiana, and it was.
The Wizards refused to go down easy though, as they outrebounded the Pacers 62-23 in a 102-79 game five victory. They also took a lead with six minutes left in game six, but the Pacers pulled away and ended the Wizards season winning the series 4-2.
It was a bittersweet feeling for the fans in DC. Sure they wanted the Wizards to go as far as possible, but that probably was. The fans chanted “let’s go Wizards” until the final horn. “Nobody expected us to be here,” John Wall said after the Wizards 93-80 loss in game six. “I think a lot of teams respect us now. We definitely made Indiana earn it.”