Wizards meet owner's playoffs-or-else demand

Wizards meet owner's playoffs-or-else demand
April 2, 2014, 9:15 pm
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(Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports)

The edict of Wizards owner Ted Leonsis has been met. The Wizards have officially clinched a playoff spot for the first time since 2008 after -- and took a significant step towards securing no worse than a No. 6 seed -- by blowing out the Boston Celtics 118-92 on Wednesday night.

The New York Knicks, who play Washington at Madison Square Garden on Friday, are closing in on the No. 8 spot by routing the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday.

Leonsis demanded going into this season, regardless of injuries or unforeseen circumstances, that coach Randy Wittman and president Ernie Grunfeld deliver a playoff team after a 29-win season. If the Wizards can win three of their last seven games, they'll have at least 42 wins which would guarantee them a winning record, too. 

Despite early-season injuries to Nene and Bradley Beal, the underperformance of free-agent Eric Maynor, and more injuries to Nene and Beal, the Wizards persevered. As long as they avoid falling to a No. 7 or 8 seed in the East, which would mean a first-round playoff meeting with the Indiana Pacers or Miami Heat, they have a legitimate shot at getting out of the first round. 

[MORE: Wizards pound Celtics to lock up playoffs]

Of the teams ahead of them who are likely first-round opponents, the Wizards have a winning record in the season series vs. the Chicago Bulls (2-0) and Nets (3-0). The Wizards lost three of four games to the No. 3 Toronto Raptors, who would be their opponent if they only maintain their seeding. 

The caveat to that is, of course, the Raptors are primarily an offensive team that doesn't have the playoff experience of the Bulls or Nets. In the postseason, games tend to be called looser by officials and scoring dips which could make them a more favorable draw. 

The Bulls have a stifling defense but have trouble scoring. In particular, defensive player of the year candidate Joakim Noah usually has trouble matching up with Nene, who is expected to return from a left knee ligament strain near the end of the regular season. 

Against the Nets, the Wizards' John Wall is a matchup problem for Deron Williams who hasn't been able to contain the faster, more athletic counterpart at point guard. 

The Wizards play the Bulls on Saturday in the second game of a back-to-back.