Washington Wizards looked their best this season in the biggest game of the season

Washington Wizards Russell Westbrook. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Washington Wizards Russell Westbrook. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports /

The Washington Wizards seem to perfrom best when their backs are up against the wall. With the season on the line and the potential for a devastating collapse that would see the Wizards missing the playoffs after a 17-6 run to end the season, the Wizards stepped up. Every single one of them.

By defeating the Indiana Pacers 142-115, the Wizards clinched the East’s final playoff spot, completing a remarkable comeback in what once looked like a lost season. In the win, six Wizards players scored in double figures and pretty much everybody who played more than just garbage time in the fourth quarter finished with a positive plus/minus. Considering the stakes and the roster-wide contributions, this was the Wizards’s best performance of the season.

Rui Hachimura had a great bounceback game (18 points), Raul Neto was solid (14 points, two steals), and Robin Lopez‘s hook shot looked as lethal as ever. But the real star among the “other guys” was Daniel Gafford. He made sure this game vs. the Pacers wasn’t the Wizards’ last of the season. Gafford exploded for 15 points, 13 rebounds, and 5 blocks in just 22 minutes.

The Washington Wizards looked their best when they needed to the most. They’ll need to carry the momentum from their best win of the season into the playoffs.

In reality, this game was over at halftime. The Wizards were up 66-52, and unlike the first-round play-in loss to the Celtics in which the Wizards squandered a slight first-half lead, the Wizards didn’t let this one go. The 27-point margin of victory was their second-largest of the season.

After the season-finale win over the Charlotte Hornets and the chance to grab the seventh seed from the Celtics, the eighth seed may feel like a bit of a letdown. But it shouldn’t.

It’s technically where the Wizards finished at the end of the season. That is remarkable in it’s own right considering they had a 0.6 percent chance to make the playoff on April 6, per ESPN BPI. The first-round loss didn’t actually hurt them in the standings. It just means they got a little less rest before the playoffs. This is why it was particularly valuable for the Wizards to get big performances from all over the roster. It gave Bradley Beal and Russel Westbrook some much-needed rest before their first multiday layoff in two months. In the win, Beal logged zero fourth quarter minutes, while Westbrook played less than four.

Gafford and the rest of the center trio, in partciluar, will need to keep playing at a high level. The Wizards feasted on the Pacers’ interior all season. But, moving forward, the Wizards will have a much more formidable foe. MVP candidate Joel Embiid, former Wizard Dwight Howard, and the rest of the top-seeded Philadelphia 76ers are waiting in the first round.

Next. 3 Wizards players that must perform in the postseason. dark

The Wizards went 0-3 against the 76ers this season, however, the two teams haven’t matched up since March 12. These Wizards are much different than they were a few months ago, but they’re still heading into this series as the clear underdogs. Fortunately, the Wizards will enter the playoffs for the first time since 2018 coming off of their best win of the season. They have the confidence, and the momentum, to shake things up against the East’s top team. Series starts Sunday. This should be fun.