Why a Lame Eastern Conference Finals Needed Washington’s Wizards
The Cleveland Cavaliers destroyed the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Celtics were able to steal Game 3, but the Cavaliers dominated every other contest. Without Isaiah Thomas, the Celtics had almost no chance. However, it didn’t have to be like this. If Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals had gone differently, we could be watching the Washington Wizards take on the Cavs. Even though the Wizards would probably not be able to beat the Cavaliers in a seven-game series either, they would at least be able to make it more interesting, and a lot more fun.
Unfortunately for NBA fans everywhere, Isaiah Thomas was injured during Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals, and his loss also symbolized the loss of fun. With IT on the court, the public would be treated to Isaiah Thomas and Kyrie Irving, duels between some of the best point guards in the league. Without Thomas around, Kyrie easily carried the scoring load for the Cavaliers.
The Eastern Conference Finals just weren’t been particularly enjoyable. Apart from Game 3, when the Celtics stole a win thanks to a last-second three, the games haven’t even been close. The Cavaliers won their four games by an average of 26 points per game, including a forty-four-point rout in Game 2. Watching the Celtics get blown out hasn’t been entertaining - it's just served as another reminder of the inevitability of the Cavaliers-Warriors rematch.
However, if the Wizards had opposed the Cavaliers, the series would be entertaining if nothing else. If the regular season is any indication, the series would be close: During the regular season, the Cavaliers took two out of three games, including a 140-135 OT thriller in February, but the Wizards were able to beat the Cavaliers at home, with a 127-115 win in March. It’s hard to believe that the Cavs would’ve been able to steamroll the Wizards, given the competitive nature of their games in the regular season.
Also, the Wizards were seemingly unstoppable at home in the postseason. Washington won each of their six games at home during the postseason, and the Cavaliers should have had trouble keeping up with the Wizards in Washington. John Wall has an uncanny ability to control the crowd and use the home court advantage effectively. The fans at the Verizon Center are passionate, and coming out of D.C. with a win is a difficult task for any team, even LeBron’s. Given Washington’s home-court domination, the series would definitely have been competitive.
A Wizards-Cavaliers series would also allow two All-Star point guards to take the court against each other. John Wall and Kyrie Irving are both four-time All-Stars, and both had the honor of being the first overall pick in 2010 and 2011, respectively. Additionally, both guards have shown the ability to take over a game in clutch situations. In terms of entertainment value, Wall and Irving are two of the funnest players to watch. Irving is one of the best ball-handlers in the NBA and his handles are incredible. Meanwhile, Wall is one of the fastest players in the A and his fearlessness on the fast-break is awe-inspiring.
A spot in the Eastern Conference Finals would’ve given Wizards guard Bradley Beal the opportunity to shine in the spotlight. After an All-Star caliber year, Beal was averaging career-highs in the postseason: a career best 24.8 points per game on 47.1% from the field. In a series against the Cavaliers, there’s reason to believe that those numbers would’ve increased. Much of the Cavaliers defensive focus would be placed on John Wall, which would give Beal the opportunity to get open and take easy shots.
No discussion of the Cavaliers or Wizards is complete without an acknowledgement of one simple fact: neither team plays defense. The Cavaliers and Wizards were fourth and fifth in points per game, with both teams averaging more than 109 points per game. However, on the defensive side of the ball, Cleveland and Washington were the 11th and 10th worst teams in opponent’s points per game. Those sub-par defenses are part of what would make a Cleveland-Washington series so much fun. The two teams would average a billion points a game, and fans would get to see some of the best talent in the NBA doing what they do best: score.
The Eastern Conference Finals have been disappointing, for the most part. But if the Washington Wizards were involved, they would be a scoring duel for the ages.