Wizards Seek to Upend Top Seed
Stacy M. Brown | 5/7/2014, 3 p.m.
Having surprised many in the basketball world by the ease in which they dispatched the Chicago Bulls in the first round of the 2014 NBA playoffs, the Washington Wizards continue their improbable march toward glory this week with a 102-96 victory over the top-seeded Indiana Pacers in Game 1 of their best-of-7 semifinals series.
After posting a conference high 56 victories during the regular season, the Pacers have their hands full with the upstart Wizards, who won another playoff game on the road on Monday, May 5 in Indiana.
“As a die-hard fan, you really don’t care who your team plays as long as they are in the playoffs, but I have to say I was hoping that we got the Hawks,” said Eli Teel, a longtime Wizards’ fan who lives in Temple Hills, Maryland.
“But, the fact is, we are still playing better than the Pacers right now and I think we can take them out and move on, possibly to the Finals,” said Teel, 39, who offered a prediction that Washington would defeat Indiana in six games.
After a convincing five game series win over heavily favored Chicago, fans and players alike are filled with confidence that this year’s postseason can swiftly become one of the most memorable in the franchise’s history.
Many said the five days of rest and preparation before the Indiana series served the Wizards well.
“Anytime you can get a few days off at such a critical time, it’s important. Plus, you have to factor in that the Pacers struggled during the last couple of months of the regular season and they struggled against the Hawks, who barely made the playoffs,” said Jason Cooper, a Northwest resident who said he’s been a Washington fan all of his life, including when they were called the Bullets in the years before 1997 when then-owner, the late Abe Pollin, changed the team’s name to the Wizards.
“It seems guys like John Wall and Bradley Beal are peaking at the right time, so I think we can take this series in six or seven games,” said Cooper, 48.
After the Wizards finished off the Bulls in Chicago on April 29, Coach Randy Wittman gave the team a day off on April 30.
Wittman then permitted the squad to carry on with individual workouts on Thursday, May 1, before he resumed regular practice sessions on Friday, May 2.
Wittman, 54, said he didn’t want the lack of action to stifle the team’s momentum after the Bulls’ series, which resulted in the Wizards advancing to the second round for the first time in a decade.
“Whether you like rest or you want to keep going, we don’t have a choice,” Wittman said. “We’ll do what we have to do to take advantage of these days.”
Game 2 of the Wizards and Pacers series tipped off in Indiana late on Wednesday, May 7. The teams arrive at the Verizon Center in Northwest for Game 3 on Friday, May 9 and for Game 4 on Sunday, May 11.