Scott Brooks and his staff started the guesswork last week. The Wizards moved closer and closer to being locked into the No. 4 seed in the playoffs. Their opponent remained a murky proposition, so they began assembling tape and knowledge on several teams, from Milwaukee to Atlanta to Indiana and Chicago.
Move ahead a week. Washington has one game remaining in the regular season, but still has no clarity on its playoff opponent. That could change Tuesday night.
The Wizards picked up win No. 49 on Monday in Detroit. That made them the first team in NBA history to go from 2-8 to 49 or more wins in a season. However, it did no affect their playoff seed. They will be the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference and have homecourt advantage in their first series.
Who will they play?
That question could be resolved tonight. The Hawks are at home against the Charlotte Hornets. If they win, they lock down the No. 5 seed and a first-round matchup with the Wizards. The teams played in the Eastern Conference semifinals in 2015 — the infamous series with John Wall’s fall and Paul Pierce’s corner 3-pointer that was a half tick late — and Atlanta won, 4-2.
If Atlanta loses, Milwaukee still has a distant chance at the No. 5 seed. The Hawks would need to lose both of their remaining games and the Bucks would have to win in Boston on Wednesday for the teams to flip spots. Boston will still have something to play for Wednesday night to close the season. It is a game in front of the Cleveland Cavaliers for the top seed in the East and homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs.
If the current seeds hold, Washington would open against the Hawks, then likely play the Celtics in the semifinals, should both advance. Cleveland would have to beat Indiana and likely Toronto to make the conference finals.