Last April, the first-seeded Indiana Pacers, who’d spent the season’s first few months crushing the league before returning to earth after the All-Star break, labored through a surprisingly tough seven-game series against a mediocre Atlanta Hawks team seemingly engineered to turn Indiana’s greatest strength (Roy Hibbert’s rim protection) into a weakness (an inability to guard lineups that spaced the floor with three-point shooters and dragged Hibbert away from the rim). The general conclusion was that a terminal flaw had been exposed, and that the Pacers were doomed.

While all that was going on, the fifth-seeded Washington Wizards—after a herky-jerky regular season of impressive stretches and national hype interspersed with periods of terminal-seeming incompetence—jumped up and clobbered the favored, fourth-seeded Chicago Bulls in their first-round series. For this they received voluminous praise from basketball observers; some extra days of rest and practice to prepare for their second round series; and abundant murmurings that, Hey, it’s a flawed East and they’re playing their best basketball at exactly the right time. “Maybe the Wizards can Do It this year!” is a thing people said.

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But, nah. Turned out, all the plucky Hawks had done was force the top seeds to get their shit together and (temporarily) rediscover the mojo they’d mislaid over the regular season’s last couple of months. The seventh game of that series was a one-sided ass-kicking in high Pacers style. They went on to knock the Wizards off in six games, before losing the Eastern Conference Finals to the Miami Heat, who lost the NBA Finals to the San Antonio Spurs. It was a sequence of outcomes that rendered that Wizards-Bulls series as close to utter meaninglessness as it could get. Which, it being a four-versus-five series in the Eastern Conference, is pretty much all the way there!

This is what you think about, as a Wizards fan, when you watch the first-seeded Atlanta Hawks—who spent this season’s first few months crushing the league before returning to earth after the All-Star break, and who have labored so far in a surprisingly tough series against a mediocre Brooklyn Nets team seemingly engineered to turn Atlanta’s greatest strength (an undersized, rangy rotation that paces and spaces better than anyone else) into a weakness (they can’t just go create buckets in a slow, half-court game)—show signs of rediscovering their mojo, as they did in last night’s Game 5 victory. You think about how after a herky-jerky regular season of impressive stretches and national hype interspersed with periods of terminal-seeming incompetence, the fifth-seeded Wizards jumped up and clobbered the favored, fourth-seeded Toronto Raptors in their first-round series. You think about how, for this, they have received voluminous praise from basketball observers; some extra days of rest and practice to prepare for their second round series; and abundant murmurings that, Hey, it’s a flawed East and they’re playing their best basketball at exactly the right time. You think about how “Maybe the Wizards can Do It this year!” is a thing people are saying. You think about how last season’s results lined up, in the end, to reaffirm that, actually, all they did was beat a lousy fourth-seed that didn’t have Derrick Rose on it.

Go Nets.

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