Although the standings indicate the Washington Wizards are headed to the postseason this weekend, they are staggering to the finish.
The Wizards will be making their fourth playoff appearance in the last five seasons and hope to finish the regular season on a good note when they visit the Orlando Magic on Wednesday.
Even when John Wall was sidelined while recovering from a knee injury, the Wizards rose to as high as fourth in East. Now Washington (43-38) is eighth after Wall collected 29 points and 11 assists in his fourth game back during a 113-101 home win over the Boston Celtics on Tuesday.
Washington holds the same record as the Miami Heat, who are hosting the top-seeded Toronto Raptors on Wednesday. The Wizards are 7-12 in their last 20 games after they won 10 of 13 games from Jan. 27-Feb. 27
To get the sixth seed Washington must beat Orlando while Milwaukee and Miami lose. To get the seventh seed, Washington must win Wednesday and get a loss by either the Heat or Bucks, who are visiting Philadelphia.
A sixth seed would earn Washington a matchup with Cleveland or Philadelphia, while the seventh seed means a matchup against Boston and a rematch of last season's hard-fought seven-game series in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
"Being in the playoffs is not disappointing," Wizards coach Scott Brooks told reporters ahead of Tuesday's game. "With where we are, sure I'd love to be in a higher seed. We're worried about ourselves, we gotta play better. We gotta string some games together, have a good showing the next two games. Competitive spirit on both ends and for each other."
The Wizards beat the Celtics after getting a film session of recent games and playoff games from last season
"Looking at the things we were doing over the course of the year, over the course of the last couple games," Wizards guard Bradley Beal told reporters. "Just seeing our demeanor and our approach and seeing two different teams. They showed us clips of us last year in the playoffs. Just our intensity, our focus, our grit and grind, attention for detail for everything was a lot better. So, that's who we need to be."
Orlando (24-57) is 5-14 in its last 19 games and 16-24 at home this season. Wednesday could also be the final game for coach Frank Vogel, who was hired before last season under the previous regime.
Vogel is 53-110 and has two years remaining on his contract, though the team is under new management in first-year president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman and new general manager John Hammond.
This season, the Magic began 8-4 but dropped 27 of their 31 games. The team's rotation players have missed a total of 224 games due to injuries.
"I think he's done the best job he could," Orlando center Nikola Vucevic told reporters. "Last year, he came in and he had a team that was just put together -- a lot of new players. It didn't work out. We just couldn't get things together on the court at all. It looked good on paper. On the court, it never clicked. So, it was a tough situation."
In their last home appearance, the Magic dropped a 137-100 decision to the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday and then followed it up with double-digit losses at Toronto and Milwaukee.
In Monday's 102-86 loss to the Bucks, the Magic missed 19 of 24 3-point shots and couldn't keep pace defensively in their 25th double-digit loss of the season. Orlando also dropped to 6-22 against Eastern Conference playoff teams.
"It's been the case all season. Our defense has never been consistent enough," Vogel said.
Vucevic led the Magic with 17 points and has six double-doubles in his last seven games.
The Wizards have averaged 123.3 points in winning the first three meetings against Orlando and are trying to sweep the season series for the fourth time in five seasons. Washington also is 17-2 in the last 19 meetings.