Wizards clinch playoff berth
AP Friday, April 4, 2014, 12:10 am TWN
WASHINGTON -- John Wall joined his Washington Wizards teammates at center court and did a little dance in the middle of a celebratory huddle.
Wall will soon be making his playoff debut, and the Wizards will be there for the first time since 2008, having clinched an Eastern Conference berth Wednesday night with a 118-92 win over the Boston Celtics.
"It's everything I've been waiting for," said Wall, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 draft, "as being a point guard, and trying to learn how to lead in this league, and become a better player. But also I think the fans deserve it. I mean, the tough times they've been through, booing us and us feeling bad when we're not playing good or playing the right way."
Wall had 13 points and 10 assists in one of the Wizards' easiest recent wins. It was their biggest margin of victory this season, and their 62.5 shooting percentage was their best in a game since 2001.
The Wizards' playoff position had been relatively secure for several weeks in the weakened East, but the formality of seeing the magic number reach zero was a milestone worth noting for a club whose win totals since their last postseason appearance have been 19, 26, 23, 20 and 29 — never finishing better than 24 games below .500. Washington sits in sixth place in the conference.
"We're still learning the process of what it takes to be a really good team," said Randy Wittman, who will be in the playoffs for the first time as a head coach. "But I couldn't be more happy for those guys."
Marcin Gortat scored 22 points on 10-for-13 shooting, and Bradley Beal went 7 for 8 to finish with 19 points. All five Wizards starters scored in double figures.
Jared Sullinger had 25 points, and Rajon Rondo had 13 to lead the Celtics, who have lost six in a row and 11 of 12.
The Bulls bumped slumping Atlanta out of the last playoff spot in the Eastern conference with a 105-92 win.
The Hawks lost for the 21st time in 28 games, this one dropping them slightly behind New York for the eighth playoff seed. The Knicks routed Brooklyn 110-81 to climb percentage points ahead of Atlanta. The Cleveland Cavaliers are also in the mix after beating Orlando 119-98 for their fifth win in six games.
Miami stayed atop in the East, with LeBron James scoring 17 points and Chris Bosh adding 15 in a 96-77 win over Milwaukee, while Charlotte moved closer to playoff berth with a 123-93 win over the 76ers.
The Spurs, meanwhile, extended their winning streak to 19 games, with Tony Parker having 18 points and eight assists and Tim Duncan contributing 15 points and eight rebounds in the 111-90 victory over the Warriors.
Elsewhere, DeMar DeRozan scored 29 points to help Toronto to its seventh straight home meeting with Houston, and Kenneth Faried scored a career-high 34 points and added 13 rebounds as Denver scored a season high in routing New Orleans 137-107.
The Kings avoided a season sweep against the Lakers with a 107-102 win at Sacramento, while the Pacers ended a three-game skid with a 101-94 win over the Pistons.
At Minneapolis, Kevin Love had 24 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists for his third career triple-double as Minnesota dealt Memphis a 102-88 loss it could ill afford.
The Grizzlies entered in seventh place in the jam-packed Western Conference, but with Phoenix and Dallas all in the mix for the last two spots.
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