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Westbrook yes, Sabonis no: Wizards return to playoffs

The Wizards have not played in the playoffs since 2018. And the Pacers have not missed the big event since 2015. Both trends have ended for two projects that are not exactly on the right track. The team that Scott Brooks has led since 2016 (and that he can stop doing sooner rather than later) He has beaten a rival devastated by injuries and for a year whose condensed calendar has affected everyone, and is heading to the final phase after a second half of the dream season. Russell Westbrook achieves the great goal that he set out with his arrival in Washington, to play in a small team adrift that assumed his great contract (206 million in five years until 2023) and allowed him to continue making triple-doubles, something he has done with solvency surpassing even Oscar Robertson. But not even in his redemption campaign has he been able to with the farce that always haunts him, that of a player who is not worth for important appointments, something that was seen with that erratic game that he showed off against the Celltics. The improvement against the Pacers allows the point guard to save a historic course for him. And the rest, we already know.

The point guard has gone to 18 points, 8 rebounds and 15 assists, has not been primed in the launch (13 attempts, only one from the triple) and has found his teammates with an assiduity that he did not put into practice against Boston. The victory in the second game of the play-in allows the Wizards, looking at things on the bright side, avoid the Nets in the first round and meet a beast of lesser caliber according to the betting, a Sixers who expect a lot but who expect things with certain reservations. Of course, nobody thinks that the Wizards, a cool team but without aura, can end Joel Embiid and company in a series that will surely have little history and to which Bradley Beal arrives physically touched: the 22 points against the Celtics today have been 25, with 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 9 of 17 in field goals, plus 4 of 7 in triples. But without that spark that has made him average more than 30 a night in the regular season.

The Wizards exploded in the second quarter, with a 36-23 run that gave them a lead they would no longer lose. And they did it hammering the zone, going to the counterattack and taking advantage of the long rebounds, with 9 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists of the best version of Westbrook and without scoring absolutely no triple in just four attempts, an anomaly that has not had its transfer to the general of the game: 14 of 28, a supreme series. In the second half, the team from the capital of the United States has dedicated itself to managing an advantage that has gradually increased until the Pacers have lowered their arms, out of obligation, necessity and because there was no other choice. And they have sentenced in a last quarter in which they entered 31 up (114-83), with everything seen for sentence and after scoring the spectacular figure of 48 goals in the third period, an embarrassing number for some Pacers who, in that period of time, allowed 75% in field goals … and 75% in triples.

Reflection … and reflection

In the Pacers, a little of everything and a lot of nothing. The triple-double of Domantas Sabonis knew little (19 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists), Malcolm Brogdon went to 24 points and three other players surpassed the ten. But they barely shot with 41% in field shots and 36.6% in triples, with 15 hits but in many attempts (41). The Pacers lost the battle for the rebound and had a much less collaborative game than their rivals. And they fail in the first year of Nate Bjorkgren, that experiment they tried after the rejection of a Mike D’Antoni that could arrive this summer and that has not given continuity to Nate McMillan and an acceptable do with a very low ceiling: the first round from the playoffs, something they have achieved in the last five seasons (four with McMillan) with the same result, negatively promoted in the last two years, resolved with two sweeps (4-0) that led to the dismissal of the coach.

And if the Pacers have a summer of reflection before them, the story is not going to be much different for the Wizards, no matter how much they end up with a deceptively sweet taste coming from playoff qualification. The departure of John Wall has not meant the end of an era marked by injuries and misfortunes, as much as Westbrook has not entered these nomenclatures. And now, the team is left with a questioned coach, a star on his way to 33 years and with many millions to collect, people like Davis Bertans who took a lot of money and has had a horrendous season … And Bradley Beal, Of course, with almost 28 years he has already been involved in transfer rumors and is a star with a destiny that no star wants. For now The Wizards have saved the season by grace of the latest monster version of Westbrook and they face a series that they will surely lose with their sights set more on the future than on the present. And not even with a miracle does that seem to change. Although this is the NBA. And in the best league in the world, the only sure thing is that nothing is.

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