The Washington Wizards crashed out in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals for the third time in four years, with a defeat in seven games to the Boston Celtics ending their campaign.
Scott Brooks arrived as the club’s new head coach to replace Randy Wittman, who was fired after their failure to reach the post-season in the previous term.
He enjoyed a successful first season in the American capital, securing the Wizards’ first Southeast Division crown and their best regular-season record since the 1978-79 campaign.
The Wizards made minimal additions during the off-season, with Ian Mahinmi and Andrew Nicholson among the notable arrivals, although neither would play a significant role in the campaign.
Washington would build their campaign around Bradley Beal, who committed his future to the club by signing a huge contract extension worth $126m, and four-time All-Star John Wall.
Both players enjoyed outstanding campaigns and were the heartbeat of their side’s success in getting back to the playoffs along with securing their first division title in 38 years.
Marcin Gortat had another strong season to provide experience and help guide his side to the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference courtesy of their 49-win term.
The Wizards had too much quality for the Atlanta Hawks in the first round of the playoffs, securing a 4-2 series victory to advance to face off against the Celtics.
Their clash against Brad Stevens’ men swayed one way then the other, but the Celtics were able to up the ante at the crucial moment to win the series in seven games.
Despite their disappointment, Washington have managed to tie down their crucial assets for the near future and should be ready for another run in the 2017-18 campaign.
The Wizards began their campaign on the road against the Atlanta Hawks, but began their campaign with a loss as they were soundly beaten by 15 points. Their second outing did not yield further success as the Memphis Grizzlies edged them out in overtime at FedExForum.
November proved to be a struggle for Washington as they lost six out of their opening eight matches to begin the month. Brooks’ men got off the mark by beating the Hawks with a 28-pointer from Beal and a 34-point outing from Otto Porter delivered a win over the Celtics.
However, three defeats on the bounce to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Chicago Bulls and Philadelphia76ers left them at 2-8 from their opening 10 games. Four wins in seven towards the end of the month started their recovery, including a 42-point display from Beal against the Phoenix Suns.
Although December began with a defeat against the San Antonio Spurs, the Wizards began to hit their stride during the month. Three wins on the bounce brought them back into the pack, highlighted by a dominant outing against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Brooks’ men ended the year at .500 courtesy of three successive victories, with Wall and Porter coming to the fore for their team to defeat the Milwaukee Bucks and Indiana Pacers.
January was the month that signalled the Wizards’ intentions of a deep surge into the playoffs, with Brooks earning the Coach of the Month award for his side’s performances. Washington won 12 of their 16 contests, triumphing in all of their home matches during the period.
The month began with back-to-back defeats, but the response led by Beal and Wall was emphatic, brushing aside their opponents with relative ease. Their impressive run, included victories over the Portland Trail Blazers, Grizzlies, Hawks and Celtics, ending the month with a 28-20 record.
Washington were just as dominant in February, winning six out of their seven matches before the All-Star break. Their only defeat came against the Cavaliers in a high-scoring overtime contest that even a 41-pointer from Beal could not deliver the victory to defy LeBron James and company.
Two defeats on the bounce stymied their momentum coming out of the break, but they rallied with their best outing of the season. As a complete team performance secured a comfortable win over the Warriors at the Verizon Center.
Wall and Beal took centre stage in March, with the former notching 37 and 39-point displays to defeat the Cavaliers and the Trail Blazers. The Wizards finished well enough to notch their highest win total since the 1978-79 campaign, with 49 victories from their 82 contests.
Wall got his side off to the perfect start in the playoffs, producing 32-point outings in the opening two matches of the series to put his team up against the Hawks. Washington were unable to recreate their form on the road, which Paul Millsap to bring Atlanta back into the contest.
Beal led the response at the Verizon Center along with Wall and Gortat to allow them to retake the lead. Wall secured the series with a brilliant performance to dispatch the Hawks, sending the Wizards to the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals.
The brilliance of Isaiah Thomas put Washington on the back foot in the opening two matches of the series, leaving Brooks’ men on the back foot. Wall and Beal brought them back into the series with two flawless performances at the Verizon Center, only for Avery Bradley to put the Celtics back in control at TD Garden.
In a close encounter in game six, Beal produced one of his best performances of the post-season with 33 points, while Gortat was dominant in and around the net to deliver a series-saving victory. However, Thomas raised the level of his display in the final contest to send the Celtics through the Conference Finals, ending the Wizards’ campaign.
Beal signed his contract extension last season, while Wall has followed suit with a max contract for the next four years. With the potent duo only in their mid-20s, the Wizards look primed to be a contender in the Eastern Conference for the foreseeable future.
Brooks will be watching the current situation in Cleveland with glee as Kyrie Irving looks poised to leave, weakening the current Conference Champions. As a result, there could be scope for a challenge next season, especially if Wall and Beal are able to increase the levels of their production.
Porter took a step forward last season, improving his offensive performances. Should he become a reliable foil for Wall and Beal then the Wizards could be able to secure one of the top two seeds in the Eastern Conference, adding a new threat to an already fearsome offense.
Wall could be an outside contender for MVP should he take the Wizards to the next level, and given the standard of his performances in the playoffs it could be well worth a punt. Backing him at odds of +2800 with SunBets is great value should he thrive once again, while Beal on a long shot at +20000 is certainly worth a small bet.
Washington should certainly challenge for the Eastern Conference crown at the least. It will be hard for any team to knock off the Warriors for the NBA Championship, but reaching the Finals would be a major step for the club. Therefore backing them at +1400 is the option to take.
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