Hot Take: These Wizards Losses Don't Matter | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Hot Take: These Wizards Losses Don’t Matter

By
Updated: April 2, 2018

The Washington Wizards lost to a Chicago Bulls team that didn’t even want to win. And I don’t care.

The Wizards didn’t play with any sense of urgency. I still don’t care.

Scott Brooks called the effort “unacceptable.” Again, don’t care.

Conventional wisdom says you want to play your best basketball entering the playoffs. Nope. Don’t care. (This isn’t about tanking for the No. 7 seed, either.)

The 2017-18 Washington Wizards season has been anything but conventional. The Wizards entered the season with grand thoughts of competing for a top seed in the East. Instead, their first half of the season became famous for losing to sub-.500 teams. Then came John Wall’s injury, the “everybody eats” stretch of winning basketball, the inevitable let down, then Wall’s triumphant return.

Now, the Wizards embark on two weeks of basketball purgatory where it’s unclear on a night-to-night basis whether a win is in Washington’s best interests. As Tomas Satoransky acknowledged after the team’s ugly loss to the New York Knicks last week, it already looked like the team was just waiting for Wall to come back and change everything. Wall will likely miss two of the final five games since the season ends with consecutive back-to-back sets.

Add all that up and it’s a recipe for some uninspired basketball. Sure, the Wizards are professionals, and they should be able to approach all 82 games with the same passion and energy. But they are also human beings. They know deep down, that an Easter loss to the Bulls does not really matter—and it might just help them avoid the Cavaliers in the first round. According to Candace Buckner of The Washington Post, when Bradley Beal was asked if the Wizards were too relaxed against the Bulls, he answered, “I hope not. That can’t be our mindset.” But then he added a quote that makes you think the Wizards are not fully engaged right now:

“Now it’s all about matchups and who you want to play in the first round from now on. We could either be playing somebody we want to play or playing a tough one in the first [round].”

But here’s the thing: The Wizards team that will start the playoffs in two weeks will bear no resemblance to any of the iterations that have suited up throughout the regular season. Washington will be deeper and more skilled than they have been in years. Sure, they still are not as deep as they should be, thanks to questionable roster construction, but they have eight trustworthy rotation players, whereas last post-season they had five which arguably led to their playoff demise against Boston.

John Wall’s injury, while unfortunate, forced Scott Brooks to recognize that Tomas Satoransky is a valuable contributor, worthy of 20+ minutes every night. What Tomas accomplished without Wall is impressive, but it’s what he can do in reserve and alongside Wall that is most exciting.

Washington fans no longer have to hold their breath when John Wall goes to the bench. Last season, Washington’s starters could not sit for two minutes without watching their hard-fought leads disappear. Now, Satoransky, Kelly Oubre and Mike Scott give Scott Brooks three viable players to mix in with the starters in a tightened playoff rotation.

It’s easy to say that if the Wizards play as they did in Chicago during their embarrassing 113-94 loss, then they will lose in the first round. That is undeniably true. But the Wizards team that is limping toward the regular season finish line is not the same team that will suit up for the playoffs in two weeks. And once the playoffs start, any issues with effort, energy and motivation should disappear.

Washington’s core of John Wall, Bradley Beal and Marcin Gortat have a three-year history of raising their games in the playoffs, beginning with a dominant win over the Chicago Bulls in 2014. Otto Porter joined them in 2015 for their decisive sweep of the Toronto Raptors. In both cases, Washington’s regular seasons were littered with head-scratching losses and rudderless stretches. As a result, they began both series on the road against heavily favored opponents. Didn’t matter. Neither series was even close. Against Atlanta in Game 6 last season, Wall showed the power of having the best player on the court in a playoff series.

Washington also has not been intimidated by No. 1 seeds, winning the opening game on the road in the second round against Indiana (2014), Atlanta (2015) and playing Boston tough in Games 1 and 2.

This is all to say that come tipoff in Game 1 of the first round, the Easter Sunday loss to the Bulls—and all those other disappointing losses to sub-.500 teams—will be long forgotten, just like all those ugly losses when the team was struggling to break .500 in 2014 and 2015 did not matter against the Bulls and Raptors.

This does not mean the regular season is meaningless. For the Wizards to become true contenders, they need to eclipse 50 wins and play consistently for 82 games. But if the question is whether they can make a run in the playoffs and get to the conference finals this season, then the answer is yes.

We have not seen this team at full strength. Satoransky’s emergence, which qualifies as adding a trusted rotation player out of thin air, came with Wall on the sidelines. Save for the win against Charlotte in Wall’s return, Washington has not played a single game all season with 48 minutes of strong point guard play.

The Wizards have enough talent (and health) to beat every non-LeBron-led team in the East. Given the team’s regular season performance, it’s understandable why many doubt their postseason chances. However, they don’t call the playoffs the “real” season for nothing. Everyone starts 0-0. And when the bright lights are on, Washington will have their best team yet.

Adam Rubin on EmailAdam Rubin on Twitter
Adam Rubin
Reporter / Writer at TAI
Adam grew up in the D.C. area and has been a Washington Bullets fan for over 25 years. He will not refer to the franchise as anything other than the Bullets unless required to do so by Truth About It editorial standards. Adam spent many nights at the Capital Centre in the ‘90s where he witnessed such things as Michael Jordan’s “LaBradford Smith game,” the inexcusable under-usage of Gheorghe Muresan’s unstoppable post moves, and the basketball stylings of Ledell Eackles.