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Wizards' successful road trip keeps goals in reach

March 14, 2017
The Wizards ended their five-game road trip out West with an 119-104 loss in Minnesota to the Timberwolves on Monday night. It didn't take away from what the team was able to accomplish on the eight-day road trip. 

In short: Four games in five nights. Four wins. Three double-digit comeback wins, giving the Wizards 14 wins of that variety on the season, the second-best such mark in the NBA.

A wild win over the Suns, in which the Wizards once led by 22 and trailed by 11, and ended up scoring a season-high 131 points in regulation. Ian Mahinmi, who was a game-high +38 in a four-point game, became only the third center since steals became an NBA statistic to record seven or more steals in a game.

In Denver, the Wizards led by as many as 24 and earned a tough win on a back-to-back, with John Wall recording a 30-point, 10-assist game. 

Then came a win over the Kings in which the Wizards trailed by 15 points to start the fourth quarter and won in overtime, tying the second-largest comeback win in franchise history in that scenario. Bradley Beal poured in 38 points and added 10 rebounds for his first double-double of the season. 

In another back-to-back came the 21-point comeback win over the Blazers, won on Markieff Morris’ game-winner in overtime in the team’s largest comeback win of the season. Wall scored 39 points, his second highest point total in a game this season, coupled with nine assists, and Wall and Beal combined for 65 points while all three frontcourt starters – Morris, Otto Porter Jr., and Marcin Gortat – recorded double-doubles.

And even though the road trip ended with a loss in Minneapolis, the Wizards were satisfied with the 4-1 record. No road trip is easy, especially one with four games in five nights, all in different cities. 

The trip made several new notes in the franchise record book, but it also set the Wizards on a path to accomplish many of their goals this season.

The four wins could propel the Wizards to their first 50-win season since the 1978-79 season and only the sixth in history. With 16 games remaining, the Wizards need to go 9-7 to get to 50 wins. Without a few of those comeback wins out West, this was likely going to go down to the wire. Now, though the Wizards still have another, much tougher West Coast trip on the schedule, Washington has 50 wins in reach.

Getting to 50 wins has been a goal all season, one that the players, coaches, and everyone involved have set as a milestone. Before the season, Wall told Sports Illustrated’s Andrew Sharp how much 50 wins would mean to this team.

“Success for us is getting over 50 wins,” Wall told Sharp in an interview. “The Finals, that’s our ultimate goal. And we gotta take the next step, make it to the Eastern Conference finals. Because you never know what could happen in those situations. You could be one injury away. I mean, you don’t wish anybody gets injured, but it can happen. It’s the same thing that happened to us (two seasons ago).”

With six home games remaining and considering how good the Wizards have been at Verizon Center, all six are promising opportunities. Road games against the .500-or-lower Hornets, Lakers, Knicks, Pistons and Heat give the Wizards 11 golden opportunities to hit 50 wins. That of course doesn’t mean they can’t steal a game or two in Boston, Cleveland, Los Angeles (Clippers), Utah or Golden State, but it illustrates how big those wins were out West on this first road trip. 

Every game from here on out will impact the Wizards’ playoff implications. The game against Boston counts as double in the fight for the No. 2 seed, as the Wizards currently hold a 2-1 tiebreaker over the Celtics. A second-round showdown between the two teams awaits, and the No. 2 seed would have home court advantage in that series, which cannot be overlooked.   

On January 6, the Wizards were the No. 9 seed in the East and 10 games back of the Cavaliers. Today, March 14, the Eastern Conference finals seem very possible, as the Wizards sit as the No. 3 seed in the East, 2.5 games back of the Cavs for the No. 1 seed and only half a game back of the Celtics for the No. 2 seed. The Wizards’ magic number to clinch a playoff spot is six entering Wednesday's game.

The road trip also gave the Wizards a bigger cushion against the Hawks in the Southeast Division. The Wizards lead the Hawks by 4.5 games, and the home game against Atlanta next week will impact the Southeast Division title, which the Wizards are trying to win for the first time since the 1978-79 season. It goes without saying that ending this 36-year drought would mean the world to the franchise. 

Sitting at 41-25 after a successful road trip, the Wizards have a very possible path to 50 wins, a top-three seed in the Eastern Conference and a Southeast Division title, all three accomplishments that seemed improbable not long ago.