Washington Wizards have suddenly become one of the NBA’s hottest teams and will face their biggest challenge yet against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday.
At the beginning of the season, the Washington Wizards found themselves at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, right next to the lottery bound Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers.
Capped out, there was no clear path to improvement for Washington.
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New head coach Scott Brooks preached togetherness, but the team looked discombobulated. John Wall and Bradley Beal were putting up the best numbers of their careers, yet the team was still losing games, causing some to question the backcourt’s future in D.C.
But one day, the Wizards woke up and decided that losing basketball games on a regular basis in front of empty arenas wasn’t a good look.
With the same roster that was losing games at the beginning of the season, the Wizards have climbed to the third spot in the Eastern Conference, sporting a 30-20 record.
Most coaches would’ve lost their voice in the locker room, but Brooks somehow managed to keep his core intact and it’s resulted in one of the most successful seasons in the franchise’s history, at
Averaging over 23 points and 10 assists per game, Wall has put himself in the Most Valuable Player conversation for the first time in his career.
His confidence and improvement has rubbed off on some of his key teammates, including Beal and Otto Porter, who’s leading the NBA in 3-point percentage.
Washington flipped a switch and have suddenly become one of the hottest teams in the entire league.
Riding a 17 game home winning streak, the Wizards are entering Monday night’s contest against the Cleveland Cavaliers with a target on their back.
The Wizards have done enough to get the attention of every other team in the NBA, having beaten the Los Angeles Clippers and Boston Celtics in decisive fashion.
For the first time, the Wizards will be looked at as a signature win for opposing teams – even the ones contending for the championship.
Cleveland has won just five of their last 10 games and are going through one of their only major slumps since LeBron James returned. Washington finds themselves just 4.5 games behind the defending champions in the standings.
Following Saturday’s win over the New Orleans Pelicans, Wall spoke about the importance of the Cleveland game.
“I mean, I’ve been in some big games before, but I don’t think one is bigger this year,” Wall said. “They’re a team that’s been playing okay, but they’re the defending champs. We know [they are] a team we have to chase in the East. We have a great streak going on at home. It’s going to be a packed crowd, a lot of people here and it’s on [national] TV.”
The game was picked up by TNT last week and should be sold out.
If the Wizards will legitimately compete for a championship, they’ll eventually have to get over the LeBron hurdle. And while it’s merely a regular season game, a win over the league’s best could become a statement for the district’s club.