Expectations for the Washington Wizards were high headed into this season, and looking back, there wasn't a good reason for it. The Wizards swept the Raptors in the first round -- a four-five matchup in the seeding -- with a small-ball approach where they looked and played excellent, but that was only four games. Randy Wittman talked about being committed to a new offense that emphasized spacing the team had lacked, and ultimately, nearly everyone was bamboozled into thinking Washington would finally figure it out.
On Friday, the Wizards lost a game they should have won against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Their playoff hopes were already slim heading into the day, sitting 2½ games out of the No. 8 seed. By the time Bradley Beal missed a potential game winner in regulation, and by the time Zach LaVine buried two huge three-pointers at the end of overtime that tied the game, and by the time the Wizards blew the five-point lead they built in the second overtime, those playoff hopes had finally died an ignoble death. Blame it all on LaVine's unexpected shotmaking, sure, but the Wizards dug this grave for themselves long before Friday.
On paper, the Wizards really could work. John Wall is sensational and Bradley Beal is just about everything you could ask for as a backcourt partner. Otto Porter Jr. turned into a real NBA player this season at small forward, something Washington been patiently waiting on. But between Wittman and Beal's continued injuries and an unclear power forward position, the Wizards slouched through the season unpredictably and have finally arrived here. While it's not impossible, the Pistons also won Friday, meaning the Wizards would have to overcome a three-and-a-half game deficit and pass the Chicago Bulls for a last-ditch playoff run to be considered successful.
Really, at the end of the day, the Wizards are just painfully normal. Their net rating is slightly worse than average, at minus 1.4. Their defense is No. 14 in the NBA but their offense is in the bottom-10, hurt by Wall's poor efficiency this year as he has been asked to score even more.
The loss to the Timberwolves mostly sums it up. Minnesota's big men ate up the Wizards, since Marcin Gortat falls short of the mold modern big men defenders should take. Karl-Anthony Towns and Gorgui Dieng combined for 45 points on 20-of-32 shooting with 19 rebounds and 10 assists. And despite the Wizards' nice offensive night, it wasn't quite enough despite 50 percent shooting from the field and 45 percent behind the arc.
Wall, Beal and Porter, with Markieff Morris added at the trade deadline, is a young core that will allow the Wizards to try this again several more times before any drastic changes must be made. Next year's attempt may very well come with a new coach, as Wittman has about run his course. Let this stand as the officially remembrance of the 2015-16 Wizards, a team we expected so much more from and really shouldn't have.
3 more things from Friday
The Rockets aren't dead yet
Riding a three-game losing streak with a game against the Toronto Raptors looming, it looked like Houston's slow fall out of the playoffs might leave room for the Utah Jazz. Instead, they notched a surprising 112-109 win against Toronto on Friday, giving them incredibly important breathing room as they cling to a No. 7 seed in a jumbled bottom of the Western Conference.
The current order is the Trail Blazers holding the sixth seed and the Rockets next. With a predictable loss in Golden State on Friday, the Mavericks fell to 35-37 and into a tie for the eighth seed with the Utah Jazz. Just a game and a half divide these four teams, so it certainly feels like any of these teams could land in any seed with about 10 games left in the season for each one. Houston's win over the East's second-best team was a huge step to make sure they're not the odd one left out of the playoffs when this game of musical chairs comes to an end.
Charlotte's 19-1 run in the fourth quarter comes too late to matter
Detroit thoroughly outplayed the Hornets for 42 minutes, enough that when the Hornets did tally off a huge run that was 19-1 at one point, it didn't really matter. Despite 14 fourth quarter points, the Pistons still won 112-105 -- important both to make sure they hold off Chicago and Washington but also to potentially wrestle the No. 7 seed (and thus, a first-round series against LeBron James) away from the Indiana Pacers.
On Charlotte's end, the game can simply be written off as a bad night. This is only Charlotte's third loss in the month after that blistering winning streak they went on to start March, and you can't expect them to win every game. Still, the Hornets could have moved into a tie for the third seed in the East with a win, which is something no one could have expected a couple months ago. It's truly crazy how far they've come.
Records fall in Golden State
With their 934th made three-pointer of the season on Friday against the Mavericks, this year's Golden State team has more made threes than any team ever. This record falling was inevitable with the way the Warriors' (and Curry's) year has gone, and it will likely fall several more times over the next several years as three-pointers become more and more important. Like Curry shattering the individual made threes record, the question is now how high they can reach with several weeks left in the season.
Another record fell in the Warriors' 128-120 win over Dallas, that of the combined three-pointers in a single game. Golden State nailed 21 triples (after hitting 22 the last time they played Dallas) while a shorthanded Mavericks squad kept pace with 18 shots from distance of their own. It was an absurd shooting gallery, with Klay Thompson leading the way with 9-of-16 makes while Charlie Villanueva was dusted off from the end of the bench to knock down four of his own. Something about the Warriors just bring this out of other teams, it seems like. Golden State's defense was lackluster, even apathetic at times, but there was nothing they could do about some of the shots Dallas made despite Dirk Nowitzki, Deron Williams, Devin Harris and Chandler Parsons all missing the game.
The final combined tally was 39-of-80 from deep. Welcome to today's NBA!
Play of the night
Here's one of those 39 made three-pointers made. OK, Steph, cool.
3 fun things
And to think: the Warriors could have had another three except Curry inexplicably passed it up while Thompson was already celebrating! For just a brief moment, the Warriors looked really dumb.