The Charlotte Bobcats are in the driver's seat to land the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference after a 94-88 overtime win over the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night. The pivotal game swaps the two teams in the standings, dropping John Wall and company to seventh in the conference.
This was actually a comeback effort for Washington, which trailed by double-digits after the first quarter before rallying to take the lead in the second half. The Wizards outscored the Bobcats over the final 24 minutes of regulation, 46-33, but failed to make a single field goal in the five-minute overtime period as things fell apart again.
The Bobcats stepped up early and finished things late, taking advantage of a Wizards team that lacked urgency early on. Charlotte has now won five in a row -- mostly thanks to an easy schedule -- and while the two teams have identical 40-38 records, the Bobcats own the tiebreaker by virtue of winning the season series.
Now the Wizards are likely destined to play the second-seeded Indiana Pacers in the first round, making for a significantly harder road through the postseason. Even with the problems plaguing the Pacers lately, the game at Verizon Center on Wednesday was a clear opportunity for both teams to avoid that matchup until later.
That puts the Wizards at a distinct disadvantage given the respective remaining schedules for each team.
In Charlotte's case, the final four games of the season bring Boston, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Chicago. A regular season finale against the Bulls should be difficult, per usual, but otherwise the Bobcats have a clear opportunity to win at least three of four.
Meanwhile, Washington plays Orlando, Milwaukee, Miami and Boston over its final four games. Like the Bobcats, it's three easy games and one tough one for the Wizards, but given the tiebreaker situation, matching whatever Charlotte does won't be good enough. The Wizards need to one-up the Bobcats, which may not even be possible if they win out.
And that's what makes the loss at Verizon Center on Wednesday so painful for Washington. A few days ago, prior to the lopsided Saturday loss to Chicago, a No. 6 seed seemed pretty likely -- now, it may take some serious luck for the Wizards to avoid a first-round matchup against Indiana.