Actual, Non-Ironically Cheerful Wizards News
Since both Michael Lee and I publicly wondered about this yesterday, I called the Elias Sports Bureau this morning with an important question: What is the longest losing streak an NBA team has ever taken into the playoffs? The Wiz, you'll recall, are working on a six-game shiner right now, with a somewhat legit chance to run that number up to 10, with two remaining road games plus home games against two likely playoff teams.
The Elias Sports Bureau, which knows everything and could probably tell you the meaning of life if you asked, promptly responded to my request. The longest losing streak entering the playoffs? Six games, from the '88-'89 Golden State Warriors. Why is this actual, non-ironic, cheerful news? Three reasons.
1) Washington could make history.
2) Look at the roster of that Golden State team. Just an absurd number of familiar faces, from NBA rookie of the year Mitch Richmond, to forward (!) Manute Bol (who led the league in blocked shots), to leading three-point shooter Rod Higgins. I mean, that's a Wizznutzz's dream, right there.
3) More importantly, look more closely at what that team did down the stretch. A two-point overtime loss to the Clippers. A four-point loss to Sacramento. A seven-point overtime loss to Seattle, followed by a four-point loss to Seattle. Close game after close game after close game.
This was a Golden State team with offensive excess (third in the league in scoring, with Chris Mullin and
Chris Richmond the highest scoring duo in the league). But it was a team of defensive disasters (last in the league in scoring defense). And the Warriors' late-season nosedive--they were 12-18 in March and April--gave them the seventh seed in the West.
So we take this high-scoring, low-defense team, this team filled with past and future Bullets/Wizards, this team whose glut of close, late-season losses gave them a seventh seed, and we pit them in the first round of the playoffs against the Utah Jazz, the Midwest Division champs, a team with a couple guys called John Stockton and Karl Malone, with a first-year coach in Jerry Sloan, a team that set a franchise record for wins, had set a franchise record for home record, had the best defense in the league and was a popular pick to reach the NBA finals.
(Here was how David Aldridge described Bol at the time: "a 7-6 Dinka who's been unleashing three-point shots this season with abandon.")
(Here was Kornheiser's pre-playoff summary: "Utah over Golden State. Warriors lost six in a row to end season. They wore down.")
And what happened? What happened, you ask?
Golden State sweep. Warriors in three. The first NBA sweep by a team that didn't have homecourt advantage in 23 years. Golden State Coach Don Nelson called it "a miracle." Mullin called it "beautiful." Then he talked about the doubters.
"If you'd asked [how far we could go] a week ago, people probably would have said we'd be on vacation in Hawaii by now," he said. "This is one step, but we want to go further."
To repeat yet again for emphasis, those Warriors had the third-best offense; these Wiz are currently fourth. Those Warriors had the worst defense in the league; these Wiz are currently third-worst. Those Warriors were six games under .500 in March/April; these Wiz are six games under .500 in March/April. Those Warriors freefell into the seventh seed; these Wiz are attempting to do the same.
It's all too perfect. Bet on the Washington sweep. And send playoff invites to Manute Bol and Mitch Richmond.
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