WASHINGTON — The Washington Wizards have come out the last couple of games like a team with something at stake, despite their elimination from playoff contention on Friday after losing to the Detroit Pistons.
On Sunday, the Wizards comfortably beat the playoff-bound Charlotte Hornets 113-98. On Monday, Washington dominated the Nets in Brooklyn 120-111.
The Wizards conclude their season Wednesday at home against the Atlanta Hawks.
“We still have something to play for,” said Wizards head coach Randy Wittman. “Let’s see if we can get to .500.”
Beating Atlanta would do just that, with no room to spare. The Wizards would have a season record of 41-41.
The Wizards seemingly were locked into the tenth spot in the Eastern Conference for the majority of the second half of the season, and in the last two months were in a race for one of the final postseason positions with Indiana, Chicago and Detroit.
But Washington has been plagued by a plethora of injuries to key players. The team certainly has seen its share of devastatingly close losses and blowout defeats during pivotal road trips, and inconsistency throughout home stands.
Despite a brief, five-game win streak in the middle of March that included convincing victories over the Pistons and Bulls where they looked to have briefly revived playoff chances, it would ultimately be too little too late. After going 2-3 in their last Western Conference trip, the Wizards were officially locked out.
“I mean, obviously we are disappointed in how we finished it up,” said forward Jared Dudley after the win over Charlotte. “Being inconsistent the second half of the year definitely doomed us.”
Lacking starting point guard John Wall, who missed his fourth straight game due to a sore knee, the Wizards pounced early on both the 47-34 and Hornets (who are still fighting for their final playoff seeding) and the Nets. In the latter game, Washington opened by scoring 20 unanswered points.
“I thought our aggression was there right from the start,” Wittman said after the Charlotte win. “The second half we were better.”
The last couple of games have featured the increased usage of younger players, including rookie small forward Kelly Oubre Jr.
The first-round draft pick out of Kansas played 17 minutes Sunday and a season-high of 29 minutes on Monday. Oubre said that he intends to take advantage of the remaining minutes of his first season.
“Just to get better,” Oubre said of his goals. “Go into next season with some momentum knowing how to play the right way. Just doing the things I know I am capable of.”
After the season finale against Atlanta, Washington has a long, uncertain offseason looming.
But for now, the goal remains “just to win,” said by Sunday and Monday’s starting point guard Ramon Sessions. “To leave the season with a three game winning streak would be good,” he said.