"I don't think they're any good at all," Charles Barkley said, referring to the entire Eastern Conference. "Listen, you've only got two teams in the East: you've got the Heat and you've got the Pacers. I actually think probably the Washington Wizards are probably the third-best team in the Eastern Conference."
With the All Star festivities over, teams are now focused on the final stretch of the regular season. With roughly 30 games remaining on the schedule coaches and players will place extra emphasis on playing their "best basketball" during this stretch. This is the part of the regular season where contenders rise and upsets are made.
The Washington Wizards (25-27) look to remain in the thick of things in the Eastern Conference. Currently, Washington is holding on to the sixth spot of an underachieving conference. The club has been below a .500 winning percentage for a vast majority of the season, nonetheless it has been a Cinderella story for the Wizards. The Wiz have pretty much exceeded everyone's expectations thus far.
The story has not yet ended because the overachieving Washington Wizards have the chance to climb the standings and take sole possession of the third seed. However, as of today the Wizards have just a half game advantage over the Brooklyn Nets for the seventh spot.
There is a lot of promise for the Wizards' organization and its fans. There is also a lot of basketball left to be played. This franchise has been lottery bound for the past four seasons, so playing meaningful games in the second half of the season is uncharted territory for this squad.
The one and two seeds are pretty much set in stone. The Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat have dominated the Eastern Conference. Spots three through eight are completely up for grabs. Some teams will rise to the occasion and others will fade to the background. In order for the Wizards to gain home court advantage in the first round of the postseason the team must win big against Eastern Conference competition.
Five of their next six games will be contests against Eastern Conference teams, giving the Wizards a great opportunity to create some separation in the standings. All six games are winnable. The Washington Wizards will face the Toronto Raptors twice during this final stretch to end the month of February. The Wizards will also go on the road to square up against the Atlanta Hawks. These three games will be key because the Wizards are right on their heels for playoff seeding and the head-to-head match ups may be the deciding factor in who gets home court advantage.
The month of March should also be circled on the Wizards' calendar because of their sixteen scheduled games only four games will be against competition with a winning record and nine of those sixteen games will take place against Eastern Conference foes. That's straight up March Madness, the Wiz must take advantage of having such a soft schedule to conclude the regular season.
I predict that the team will go 19-11 for their final 30 games of the season, leaving them with a 44-38 record. Wizards fans have a lot to root and be excited for. Let's see if the team can now stun the NBA nation and pull together a nice string of wins to end the regular season.