Two of the most exciting words in sports: Game 7. Exciting, yes, but excruciating if you lose. The next round, the Eastern Conference finals in this case, seems so close. After a slow start, the Wizards had an incredible season and showed toughness and perseverance when John Wall knocked down a last-second jumper to avoid elimination in Game 6. Eventually Boston persevered in the win-and-move-on decisive game. It was a fabulous series, and congratulations to the Celtics; they held the home-court advantage that they earned during the regular season.
Our fans helped make Game 6 at Verizon Center one of those memorable moments. Thank you Wizards fans for sticking with us at the beginning of the season when we were learning our way under new coach Scott Brooks and demonstrating your love, support and passion all the way through the second round of the playoffs. There always is pain associated with losing your last game, but I’m convinced we made significant strides this season, and that the best is yet to come.
We started the season slow, incorporating nine new players, a new coach, a new system and working John back in after two knee surgeries. We learned a lot about ourselves in the process of becoming serious playoff contenders and proved that we are a team on the rise.
We started to build our identity with a strong push before the All-Star break. We became a more consistent team, spectacular at times, and earned home-court advantage for the first round of the playoffs. We finished the regular season with 49 wins (30 at home, including 17 consecutive), the most since 1978-79, and we were four games behind top-seeded Boston in the Eastern Conference. We went 42-20 (.677) over the last 62 games of the regular season. We played seven playoff games at home in two rounds (joining Cleveland as the only other team in the East to make the second round in three of the last four years) and didn’t lose a single home game.
John Wall and Bradley Beal are now universally recognized as one of the top backcourts in the NBA, and we have seen continued improvement in our young players, especially Otto Porter Jr. and Kelly Oubre. Others, such as Marcin Gortat, Markieff Morris, Ian Mahinmi and Bojan Bogdanovich, have evolved and embraced their roles.
Exiting the playoffs hurts, but this was a great experience for our team, and we will be stronger for it. We see the potential, and there is a drive not only to fulfill it, but also exceed it. We are disappointed, but optimistic – the best is yet to come.