The 5-0 Warriors and 4-0 Cavs (who host the Bulls in a Game 1 on Monday night) were expected to jump out to stellar postseason starts. The 5-0 Wizards — who took Games 1 and 2 on the road in a sweep of the Raptors, then stole Game 1 in Atlanta on Sunday — were not suppose to be part of that elite company.
It’s not just the undefeated start for the fifth-seeded Wiz, it’s the fact that they’ve won three tough road games to start off their series’. Washington is now the first team in NBA history to win four consecutive Game 1s on the road — and they’re now 8-1 in their last nine road playoff games.
Despite limping into the playoffs, winning just six of their final 14 regular season games, the Wizards have found their groove at the right time. Their young backcourt is starting to learn the ropes of what it takes to win in the playoffs, and it’s not a coincidence that it’s happening while Paul Pierce is alongside them.
John Wall has been dominant thus far, averaging 17.4 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.4 blocks along with a whopping 12.6 assists in those five postseason games, boasting a 4.2 assist/turnover ratio. Once bashed for not knowing how to play the point guard position, Wall has figured out how to get his teammates involved as well as any guard in the league. Bradley Beal has been the beneficiary of many of Wall’s looks, carry the scoring load with 22.2 points, while also contributing 5.6 boards, 3.4 helpers and 1.4 steals. His perimeter shooting has been a big reason that Wall is able to roam the floor in the way that he is. In other words, they both benefit greatly from each other’s games.
The veteran frontcourt has been nearly as crucial to the team’s success as well. Pierce — who admittedly rested at times during the regular season — is proving his postseason value. His 16.2 points in just 29 minutes of action have been even more valuable than they look on paper (even with 54.2 percent shooting), simply because of the clutch timing of Pierce’s scoring. His 20 points in Game 1 in Toronto seemingly set the tone for Washington this postseason. Marcin Gortat has been invaluable to the Wiz around the rim on their run, also averaging 16.2 points, but contributing 10.4 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.6 blocks as well. And if you thought Pierce’s FG percentage was good, Gortat is shooting 70.8 percent from the field.
To top it all off, Otto Porter and Drew Gooden are combining to come off the bench for almost 20 points and over 14 boards by themselves — just the boost they need for their aging frontcourt.
Of course, this run won’t last forever, but Washington can be a surprise team deep into this postseason if they can remain healthy. Both Wall and Beal suffered injuries in the Game 1 victory over the Hawks — obviously guys that cannot afford to be lost. Wall returned from a wrist injury to lead the comeback, while Beal left late (and was practically in tears) with an ankle sprain.
Assuming both are good to go in Game 2 — which John Wall claimed they would be in his postgame — this “youthful” yet tested Wizards group might just find themselves facing off against the Bulls or Cavs with a trip to the NBA Finals on the line.
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