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Recap: Wizards clinch Play-In berth with win over Cavaliers
FINAL: Wizards 105 | Cavaliers 120
Wizards: Russell Westbrook (21), Davis Bertans (17), Robin Lopez (14), Rui Hachimura (14)
Cavaliers: Collin Sexton (26), Jarrett Allen (18), Isaac Okoro (17)
The Wizards defeated the Cavaliers 120-105 on Friday night in D.C., clinching a spot in the Play-In Tournament that begins next week. Russell Westbrook led the way for the Wizards with 21 points, 12 rebounds and 17 assists. The Wizards swept the season series against Cleveland and have now won three straight home games heading into Sunday’s pivotal regular season finale Sunday at Capital One Arena.
Cleveland led by as many as seven points before a five-point possession by Westbrook in the final minute of the first quarter cut the lead to two points. Westbrook was fouled on a 3-point attempt, hit the first two free throws, then knocked down a 3-pointer after missing the third free throw. Washington continued the momentum into the second quarter, taking a 40-36 lead after a 14-3 run. A Darius Garland 3-pointer put Cleveland up six with 4:06 left in the first half, but another late quarter run gave Washington a 58-56 halftime lead. Westbrook scored or assisted on the Wizards’ final three buckets of the half.
Washington dominated both ends in the third quarter, outscoring Cleveland 33-20. The Wizards shot 50.0% from the field and hit 13-15 (.867) free throws, including four each from Anthony Gill and Daniel Gafford. Up by just five points with 3:32 left in the third, Washington closed the quarter on an 11-1 run to take a 15-point advantage into the final frame. The Wizards led by double digits for all but 13 seconds of the fourth quarter. Westbrook capped of his triple-double with five points, five rebounds and five assists. Robin Lopez served the role of closer, scoring 10 points on 5-6 (.833) shooting.
THREE THINGS TO KNOW
Wizards’ win sets up weekend sprint for Play-In seeding
With their Play-In berth clinched, the Wizards still have an opportunity to improve their seeding with one game left in the regular season. Washington, Charlotte and Indiana can each still finish anywhere from 8-10 in the Eastern Conference standings depending on how this weekend’s results play out. The Wizards’ only remaining game on the schedule, Sunday’s regular season finale, will come against the Hornets team that currently occupies the eight-seed. To jump up to the eighth, the Wizards will need the Hornets to lose each of their remaining two games and have the Pacers finish either 1-1 or 0-2.
The team that finishes eighth will need to win only one game in the NBA Play-In Tournament to advance and has the liberty of losing a game before being eliminated. Seeds nine and 10 must win two games without losing in the Play-In to advance.
Filling in for Beal and Neto
The Wizards were playing on Friday night without two backcourt starters. Bradley Beal missed his third consecutive game with a left hamstring strain while Raul Neto was sidelined with a left hamstring tightness. Chandler Hutchison and Davis Bertans moved into the starting lineup to replace Beal and Neto. Hutchison finished with six points and four rebounds in his first start of the season while Bertans hit three 3-pointers on his way to 17 points. The real boost, however, came from the bench. The Washington reserves combined to score 58 points, led by double-digit performances from Gafford, Gill, Lopez and Ish Smith. The Wizards have now scored 40-plus bench points in six of their last seven games and 50-plus bench points in four of their last seven.
Westbrook honored pregame, puts up triple-double #183
Prior to the game, the Wizards commemorated Westbrook becoming the NBA’s all-time triple-double leader with a tribute video and presentation of a framed #182 Wizards jersey. Westbrook nearly recorded a double-double in the first half, totaling 12 points, four rebounds and nine assists going into halftime. A fourth quarter rebound sealed the 183rd triple-double of his career, his 37th of the season and the fifth of his career against the Cavaliers. Westbrook has now recorded at least five triple-doubles against 24 of the 30 NBA teams. Westbrook’s performances over the last three games with Beal out of the lineup have been significant. He’s averaging 27.6 points, 10.0 rebounds and 17.6 assists per game in that time.
With 17 assists on Friday night, Westbrook has now 15-plus assists in each of his last seven games, joining John Stockton and Isiah Thomas as the only players in league history with such a streak. Westbrook’s streak is the longest in the league since Stockton recorded eight straight in 1989.
NEXT UP: Hornets at Wizards / Sunday, May 16 / 1:00 P.M. / Capital One Arena
HIGHLIGHT OF THE NIGHT