Wizards earn date with Celtics with 115-110 win over Hornets originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
It was fitting in a lot of ways that the Wizards' final game of the 2020-21 regular season came down to the final seconds.
In a year where so much went wrong, and so much went right, the Wizards and Hornets battled right down to the end, where the Wizards won 115-110 and earned the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference and the play-in tournament.
Here are four observations from the Wizards-Hornets regular-season finale Sunday at Capital One Arena:
Clinching the eighth seed
The Wizards' rise up the conference standings was made complete Sunday with, fittingly, a comeback win over the Hornets. In doing so, the Wizards clinched the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference and will play the seventh-seeded Celtics in the play-in tournament.
If the Wizards beat the Celtics on Tuesday, they'll be the seven seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. And even if they lose, they'll get a chance to redeem themselves against the winner of the Pacers-Hornets matchup.
With a bit of a banged-up lineup, including Bradley Beal playing on an injured hamstring, the Wizards will have two chances to clinch their ticket to the NBA playoffs. The importance of not being in a single-elimination mindset cannot be overstated.
Beal fights through pain
Beal played in his first game since his left hamstring injury, and clearly was affected by that left leg.
He struggled from the floor early but regained his momentum in the fourth quarter and finished 8-of-27 with 25 points. At one point, after a missed free throw, Beal was heard yelling in frustration. With the Wizards in such a crucial game, and Beal limited with the scoring title on the line, it had to be one of the most frustrating days of the year for him. But he still found a way.
Early on, Beal struggled to adjust and was clearly sore. But he came up with 20 of his 25 points in the second half and was a vocal leader on the court, at one point touching Russell Westbrook's arm on the court to get him past the centerline on a crucial play.
As the Wizards move into the play-in tournament, Beal’s hamstring will clearly be a major factor to look for. But if Sunday was any indication, he'll fight through whatever he has to.
Hornets hot early from 3-point line — and the Wizards not
The Hornets made sure they’d be in control from the start with a 7-for-11 start from 3-point territory. Absent Raul Neto, who had been a strong perimeter defender for the Wizards, they struggled to defend the 3-point line.
On the other end of the floor, the Wizards weren’t stellar from deep and went 10-for-31 as they were clearly hampered with Beal’s injury and the spacing that ensued.
If Beal is going to be hampered in the play-in tournament, they’ll need others on the roster to step up and contribute offensively. Otherwise, they’ll be in some big trouble.
The Wizards will play the Celtics on Tuesday in the first round of the play-in tournament. The game will be played in Boston and the winner will go to the playoffs as the seventh seed. The loser will face the winner of the Pacers-Hornets matchup with a playoff spot on the line.
Now with two chances to make the playoffs, the Wizards will have as good a chance as any team in the play-in tournament to clinch their spot.