WASHINGTON – The Wizards picked up an important 100-90 victory over the Orlando Magic Wednesday night, leaving them 3-and-a-half games back of the Miami Heat for the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Despite having the eighth-worst record in the NBA, the Wizards still have an opportunity to make the playoffs, especially after beating the Magic, one of three teams they need to pass in order to get in.
The Wizards also have one game against the Charlotte Hornets and the Miami Heat remaining. The Hornets and Heat are the other two teams ahead of the Wizards for the eighth seed.
As usual, shooting guard Bradley Beal, the Wizards leading scorer, led the way with a team-high 23 points and added seven assists, but Beal praised his teammates after the game.
“One of the biggest areas of my game that I’ve grown in is just trusting your teammates to be able to make plays,” Beal said. “I don’t have to make every play, and especially with John (Wall) being out, and the way our team is… You have to be able to trust your teammates’ abilities to be able to help and contribute.”
The Wizards got many of those contributions off the bench Wednesday. They got 59 points from players who came off the bench, while on the season they average 38 points from bench players per game.
“I felt like I was playing horrible the last couple games and I obviously saw it in myself and I know Coach (Scott) Brooks saw it,” said center Thomas Bryant, who had 21 points and 10 rebounds off the bench on Wednesday. “I just wanted to see what I could clear up and try to help the team out and help myself out.”
Bryant has taken advantage of increased playing time due to starting center Dwight Howard’s back injury, which has caused him to miss almost the entire season.
Bryant has averaged 9.8 points and 5.7 rebounds per game so far this season. He played sparingly for the Los Angeles Lakers last season, averaging 1.5 points and 1.1 rebound per game.
Small forward Jabari Parker is another key player who comes off the bench for the Wizards. He was acquired at the trade deadline from the Chicago Bulls along with power forward Bobby Portis in exchange for small forward Otto Porter.
Since the trade, Parker has averaged 13.9 points per game and has been very efficient with a .563 field goal percentage. His field goal percentage was .474 in his time with the Bulls this season.
Parker continued that trend making 9 of 12 shots against the Magic, scoring 19 points.
“Growth is exciting for me and I want to keep getting better,” Parker said after the win. He also spoke about the importance of remaining unselfish.
“It’s not so difficult for my game to play with others,” Parker said. “I always want to make it easy for my teammates if I’m trying to draw attention and (pass) to guys, so it’s really just trying to get that type of energy day in and day out.”
Unselfish play and bench production will be crucial if the Wizards are going to sneak into the playoffs.
“I think right now it’s our backs against the wall and how are we going to respond,” said point guard Chasson Randle, who scored 13 points off the bench. “We’re playing with a lot of energy right now and as long as we do the little things and play for each other, we’ll be all right.”
If the Wizards are going to make a run, it has to be now, and the team has given fans reasons to stay hopeful, winning four of its last six.
“It feels good to play meaningful basketball, and on the bright side, we’re still in the hunt, so we’re just trying to get to (the playoffs),” Parker said.