The Washington Wizards held their final practice Saturday on the eve of the team’s return to the postseason after a year’s absence.
During practice, the players shot dozens of jumpers while hip-hop music boomed through the speakers.
All-Star point guard John Wall put on a little dribbling exhibition hitting 20-foot jump shots. Wall will play in his 12th playoff game at 1 p.m. Sunday against the Atlanta Hawks, but most of histeammates will experience the playoff atmosphere for the first time.
“I’m the same ‘Kieff I was a couple hours before the tip-off of the first game of the season,” said power forward Markieff Morris, one of seven Wizards making their playoff debut. “It’s nothing new. Just got to out there with the same mindset and play the game I’ve been playing my whole life.”
Although Wizards head coach Scott Brooks has a playoff career coaching record with the Oklahoma City Thunder at 39-34, this will be his first time with the Wizards.
Brooks said he’s been feeling the city’s excitement for his team since December, which began the Wizards’ 17-game home-court winning that marked the second longest in franchise history.
“I think our fan base like every fan base wants effort, they want team work, they want guys leaving it on the floor.” Brooks said. “They don’t want to watch a lazy team. They want a hard-working team and I think that’s what we’re building.”
WHAT TO LOOK FOR:
The Wizards won the regular season series against the Hawks, 3-1, but the intensity in the playoffs will increase and a key matchup could be in the paint between centers Dwight Howard and Marcin Gortat.
Howard averaged 14 points and 15 rebounds against the Wizards. In comparison, Gortat averaged nearly nine points and 11 rebounds versus the Hawks.
“We have to keep [Howard] from getting down [in the paint] early and that’s easier said than done,” Brooks said. “We have to somehow keep him off the offensive glass and that’s where he’s hurt us and he’s hurt the league with his offensive rebounding. I think Marc is up for the challenge.”