WASHINGTON – I’m about to share with you a sentence I never thought I’d type: The Wizards are far and away the best team in Washington.
I’m assuming you just spit coffee all over your monitor, so I’ll give you a minute to clean that up.
You read it right, my friend. Yes, this is a Redskins town. Yes, the Capitals have had more recent success (if you want to call underachieving in the playoffs “success”). Even DC United has more championship hardware than Les Boulez.
But right now, the Wizards are in the midst of a playoff run that has the potential to be a long one. Already up two-games-to-none in their best-of-seven, first round series with the Chicago Bulls, I dare say the Wiz are actually living up to the hype.
And yes, there is hype surrounding this Wizards squad. Leading up to Game 1 Sunday, Bill Simmons of ESPN predicted the Wiz to make it all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals. That same day, TNT’s Charles Barkley said the backcourt tandem of John Wall and Bradley Beal will be the league’s best within three to five years. Just Wednesday morning, ESPN’s Tim Legler called his former team fun to watch with “no weaknesses.”
Wait…did you just spit coffee on your computer screen again?
The love for D.C.’s long-suffering basketball team is understandable. The Wizards would probably have been at least the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference had it not been for injuries. Nene, the MVP of the first two games of this series, is back healthy. And the Wiz have a deep veteran bench that figures to serve them well if they move on to Indiana for Round 2.
Speaking of whom, the top-seeded Pacers have been in free-fall mode for much of the second half of the season and are far from a lock to beat Atlanta. So who’s to say Simmons isn’t right about his prediction of a Wizards-Heat faceoff to decide who represents the East in the NBA Finals?
Still room on the bandwagon
The first two games of the Bulls series are certainly filling up the bandwagon. Beal carried the scoring load in Game 2 with 26 points, Wall has had a high level of impact despite still trying to find his shot in the postseason, and Nene has gotten the better of his matchup with Defensive Player of the Year Joakim Noah. Marcin Gortat has been a double-double machine all season long. And heaven only knows where this team would be without Trevor Ariza’s defense and timely three-point shooting.
I’ve watched this team for more than 20 years, and it just feels like something’s different about this team — and not just because they’re up 2-0 in a series for the first time since 1982. As you look at this roster, it doesn’t resemble the Chris Webber/Juwan Howard Bullets. There’s no Agent Zero here. What we have is a gritty team that wins by any means necessary. They’ve hung more than 100 points on that Bulls defense in Chicago not once, but twice. To me, that’s proof they’re resourceful enough to make a run.
Games like the ones in Chicago instill confidence in a Wizards fanbase far too punch drunk to believe what they’re seeing just yet. That’s why I expect a raucous crowd at Verizon Center this weekend for Games 3 and 4. Just imagine how lively Fun Street will get if the Wiz complete the sweep on Sunday.
I don’t remember when the Bullets won the NBA title in 1978 (most likely because I wasn’t born yet). But I do know this: They went 44-38 in the regular season and knocked off the top-seeded Sixers, who won the East the year before.
This year, the Wiz are also 44-38 and split the regular season series with the two-time defending champion the Miami Heat.
Do you believe in magic? I know I’m starting to.
And the Wizards might finally know a few spells.