This is the most promising Wizards season in, well ... for the sake of Wizards fans, we don’t have to count. What we do know is they haven’t been to a conference finals since 1979. They hadn’t won their division since that season, either, and that finally happened this year. Maybe the conference finals come next.
That’s easy to say for me as an outsider. For a Wizards fan — a fan of any D.C. sports team, if you want to expand the perspective — they’re just waiting for something bad to happen. Can you blame them? Over the past 38 years (sorry) only bad things have happened.
The Wizards, who won twice in Washington only to return from Atlanta with the series tied, performed fine in Game 5. They fell behind early but surged back to take a halftime lead. They won the third quarter by three points, and they were looking fine in the fourth quarter until a mini-run from Dennis Schroder (six points and an assist in two minutes) cut Washington’s lead to just two. All of the Wizards’ sports failings came rushing back right then. This is always how it happens, more or less.
You should bet on Washington this season, though. The Wizards are a complete team with actual stars who fit together well. John Wall doesn’t need to physically dominate an entire quarter like he did in Game 1, and he’ll still put up 20 points and 14 assists. Bradley Beal can shoot 1-of-9 from behind the arc and still score 27 points.
Washington still has some flaws, but it put this game away after Schroder’s last three cut it to a two-point game. Wall answered back with a pull-up jumper and that stood as a closing shot for Washington as it took a commanding 3-2 lead in the series. The Wizards head back to Atlanta again, this time looking for a win that will shoot them into the second round.
There, they’ll face either Boston — the most beatable No. 1 seed the Eastern Conference has had in years — or Chicago, who could technically still win this series even if Rajon Rondo’s injury makes it look improbable. Against either team, you like Washington’s chances. Playoffs aren’t easy; they aren’t supposed to be. But this is a Washington team that feels different, that feels like you can really trust them. As much as a D.C. fan can trust any team with Washington emblazoned on the front of the jersey.
You can’t earn that trust in a day, or a series, or at this rate, a year. It’s been 38 years for the Wizards, remember? But Game 5 is a little, tiny, small, yet meaningful step in that direction.