By Wizard standards, the Wizards are HOT. They have won three straight over playoff teams (Clippers, Knicks, Nets), and are 10-7 over the past month. The return of John Wall has been huge, and Emeka Okafor has been playing pretty well of late. On Friday, the Wizards moved all the way up to the No. 13 slot in the East, a half-game ahead of the Magic.
This is the East, which means that the No. 8 is always up for grabs ... right?
No, sorry. The Wizards are way too far out to even sniff the playoffs. And that's alright: once Wall went down for as long as he did, no one was thinking the playoffs were possible. The team has stated it wants to go .500 with Wall back; that's a very reasonable and positive goal to set.
But don't get any ideas about them creeping up and challenging for a postseason spot. They are still 11.5 games behind Milwaukee for No. 8, and both the Bucks and the surging Celtics look like they'll keep an above-.500 pace. All the Wizards are going to do from here on out is build positive momentum for next season and earn a lower lottery pick.
Some other playoff notes ...
* The Raptors are in trouble if a 2013 playoff run was the point of the Rudy Gay deal. As noted above, the Bucks and Celtics don't seem to be going anywhere, so the Raptors need to start playing well above .500 ball to catch up. Toronto is eight games behind Milwaukee. The Raptors need to go 23-9 just to hit .500, which might not be enough. That's a .718 pace. Only the Spurs and Thunder are playing at better than that pace this season. And T-Dot might need to get to 25-7 or 26-6 to actually catch Milwaukee or Boston. Not happening.
* Two teams have basically dropped out of the West playoff chase: the Mavericks and Timberwolves. Everyone in front of Dallas has kept pace, which means that the Mavs sit 5.5 games behind the No. 8 Rockets with two teams in their path. The Wolves have fallen even further behind due to an incredible injury burden. They've won just two of their last 11 games and sit 7.5 games out with three teams in their way.
* The Lakers have an outside shot at reaching .500 by the All-Star break. They just need to beat the Heat in Miami and the Clippers (plus the Suns in L.A.) to do it. Something tells me that with the injury issues that's going to be a challenge. Splitting those two big games and beating the Suns (who recently beat the Lakers in Phoenix, you may remember) would leave the Lake Show 26-28 at All-Star, which is manageable if not optimal. Losing both big games (certainly possible) would land them 25-29. In the event L.A. loses all three games, they'd be 24-30 at the break. Houston, the current No. 8 seed, is four games over .500. Every win matters for L.A. at this point.
* We had previously "called" one seed in the playoff picture: the West No. 3 for the Clippers. Welp. The Clippers' slide with Chris Paul out and the Nuggets' tear (eight straight wins) has Denver within two games of the No. 3 spot. The No. 3 spot isn't terribly more important than the No. 4 spot -- there's no telling which of the Spurs or Thunder will be No. 1, so you can't plan to avoid one or the other until the conference finals in all likelihood, and the No. 5 and No. 6 seeds will likely be the Grizzlies and Warriors in some order. Without knowing in advance, there's no judging which seed will be preferable.
* Charlotte is on its way toward the worst record in the NBA again. The Bobcats have 11 wins, two teams have 14, one has 16 and three have 17. The opportunity to pick up Nerlens Noel would be quite nice for Charlotte.