The Wizards may be in a tough spot going down the stretch run of the regular season, but it's really not that much pressure for a team that didn't have high expectations placed on them externally coming into the season.
Despite a 2-8 start, here they are, a virtual lock for a top 4 seed in the East playoffs and a good chance to hold on to the third spot.
They looked flat for most of Wednesday's 104-100 win over the Atlanta Hawks, coming back from a 14-point deficit to win at the Verizon Center with one more home game before emarking on their toughest road stretch. But the Wizards can't lose sight of the fact that they're in an enviable position and aren't far from contending with the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers above them.
"It was just probably our swag," said Bradley Beal, who scored a team-high 28 points to go with nine rebounds as he described the difference in their fourth-quarter play. "We just started having fun. I felt like we were just tense with everything. We were afraid to make mistakes. We were passing up open shots, making too many passes. ... We were kind of all over the place in the first half. We just got back to having fun, getting after it on defense and of course that was leading us to easy buckets in transition."
Through three quarters, the Wizards (43-28) were shooting 25 of 69, or 36.2%. In the final 12 minutes, Markieff Morris made 4 of 5, Beal 3 of 4 and Kelly Oubre 2 of 3.
They were 13 of 26, or 50%, in a 37-point fourth. Morris had consecutive baskets, the latter a reverse layup, when the Wizards pulled away at the mid-point. Beal had a steal that led to his own three-pointer in transition.
John Wall blocked a jumper by Dennis Schroder and assisted to Beal in transition for a dunk. Wall completed a three-point play when he was fouled on a drive and then had a steal that led to his own dunk.
When the flurry was over, the Wizards were up 91-80.
The Hawks were held to 34 of 86 shooting, or 39.5%. But the Wizards still will have to be better than this on both ends after Friday's home game vs. the Brooklyn Nets.
They play at the Cavs on Saturday and then have challenging matchups with the L.A. Clippers, Utah Jazz and Golden State Warriors. The only soft touch on the trip is vs. the L.A. Lakers.
Morris and Marcin Gortat also have to be more involved early for the dynamic offensive team they've been most of the season to return. While Gortat avoided foul trouble in this game, he never was totally in sync offensively and played 28 minutes. Morris picked up his third foul just seconds into the third quarter.
"We did a great job defensively, except for them making some tough threes at the end," Wall said. "We just have to do a better job of protecting the paint and if they do drive not foul them."
Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, March 23, 35 days before the April 27 NFL draft.
—Offseason workouts begin (4/17) 25
—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 50
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 62
—Franchise tag contract deadline (7/15) 114
—First Sunday of 2017 season (9/10) 171
The Redskins’ five most valuable backups
QB Colt McCoy—The one time that McCoy came into a game for Kirk Cousins was in 2014, when he took over for the struggling starter at halftime and led the Redskins to a comeback win over the Titans. The way things stand now the only way that McCoy plays this year is if Cousins gets injured. And the fact that Cousins has never missed an NFL snap due to injury doesn’t guarantee that he won’t.
OT Ty Nsekhe—In his seven seasons in the NFL Trent Williams has played in 16 games just twice. That makes the backup player who must protect the quarterback’s blindside very important. It would take just one hit for that Cousins streak to come to an abrupt end. The Redskins had shaky solutions for a backup tackle until they found Nsekhe in 2015.
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DB Will Blackmon—Versatility is the key with Blackmon. With only 46 active players on game day it helps to have someone who can play either side as a corner, cover the slot, and play free safety. He might be a jack of all trades and master of none but the ability to fill in when the need calls for it is important.
DL Ziggy Hood—I’m assuming here that Hood is indeed a backup. That’s what everyone thought he would be last year but due to injuries and free agent flameouts he ended up 14 games and playing 60 percent of the defensive snaps. Hood could be much more effective as a reserve. And consider the injury histories of projected starters Stacy McGee (7 games missed last year) and Terrell McClain (missed most of 2015) and the teams likely reliance on some rookies (durability unknown), a good rotational lineman who can step up and start could be critical.
TE Vernon Davis—The Redskins moved quickly to ensure that Davis will return in 2017, signing him to a three-year deal early in free agency. Jordan Reed proved that he is as tough as they come by playing through his shoulder injury in Dallas but it still cost him a couple of games. Reed has missed between two and seven games in each of his four NFL seasons so a good backup for him is critical.
Tandler on Twitter
@MrDavidB21 There are always surprise picks. Much more likely to trade down than trade up.— Rich Tandler (@Rich_TandlerCSN) March 22, 2017
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