The Washington Wizards are currently up 3-1 against the mighty Chicago Bulls in their first-round playoff matchup. Led by John Wall, this young team has proven to the rest of the league that the Wizards are the most dangerous team in the East.
Chicago was heavily favored heading into the matchup and now that the Wizards are up 3-1, it looks like Washington will be pulling off an upset. The Wizards have been able to come together and peak at the right moment, and they are winning as a result.
As a team, the Wizards have been able to outscore their opponents in the first, second and fourth quarter during their last 10 games. Head coach Randy Wittman has Washington playing tough basketball as a team for the first time this season. Not to mention, the team has been able to close out games during the stretch, something Washington struggled with all season long.
Washington is currently 36-17 this season against teams in the East. Even without Nene Hilario, the Wizards have had players step up when their number is called. Washington is filled with players who do their job and play well, which is what makes the Wizards so dangerous. In their most recent Game 4 victory, Trevor Booker started in Nene’s absence and contributed eight points, nine rebounds and three blocks. He also provided a much-needed defensive presence, helping to hold Chicago’s Joakim Noah to only 10 points, 15 rebounds and five assists. Booker is a veteran, and his experience has been extremely instrumental in Washington’s playoff run.
Along with Booker, Trevor Ariza has provided Washington with veteran guidance. In their most recent win over the Bulls, Ariza had 30 points, eight rebounds and two steals. Ariza, who shoots 51 percent from inside the arc and 41 percent from behind the arc, is without a doubt the Wizards’ biggest x-factor. His veteran leadership and professionalism on and off the court has helped guide Wall and Bradley Beal through their first playoff experience.
Wall continues to be the face of the franchise and has truly developed into an all-around point guard this year. Most importantly, Wall has taken Beal under his wing and helped mold him into an All-Star shooting guard. Beal growing up is one of the biggest contributors to the Wizards’ success. During Washington’s Game 2 victory, Beal had 26 points, which put him on an elite list with players like Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant, Tony Parker and Derrick Rose.
His Game 2 performances makes him the 10th player ever in NBA history to score 25 points or more while being under the age of 20. The growth of Beal has been truly amazing and his contributions give Washington the best backcourt in the East. The Wizards are set to face the bulls in Chicago for Game 5 on Tuesday, April 29. Washington is looking like a team that is playing with a purpose, and Eastern Conference teams should make sure the Wizards are on their radar.
This team has the potential to make a serious playoff push, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them make it to the Eastern Conference Finals.