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Few people can appreciate a comeback quite like D.C. sports fans can. Really, they wouldn't have it any other way.
The Washington Capitals won the 2018 Stanley Cup after being down in every series along the way, including 0-1 to the Vegas Golden Knights in the final. The Nationals won the 2019 title in Major League Baseball after trailing in the Wild Card game, the NL Division Series and in the World Series. Those Nats, of course, were also 19-31 in the regular season before mounting a historic turnaround.
The 2020-21 Wizards to a certain degree have had some parallels. They were 17-32 at their lowest point this season, not far from 19-31, only to climb back all the way to clinch the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference, which they accomplished on Sunday with a win over the Hornets.
That win against Charlotte? Yeah, it required a comeback. They were down by as many as 16 points and trailed by 11 entering the fourth quarter. Their season has been defined by comebacks and they needed one more to secure the No. 8 seed, which greatly increases their chances of making the playoffs.
"This game kind of mimicked our season. A lot of crazy things happened to us," head coach Scott Brooks said. "We were getting punched left and right and we just somehow kept battling and coming up with a play here and a play there. They had us on the ropes… and we just kept getting up and fighting for one another."
The Wizards now go to Boston for a matchup on Tuesday night needing only one win to qualify for the playoff bracket. Finishing ninth or 10th would have required them to win two games. Eighth gives them double elimination, while ninth or 10th would have meant one loss and the season is over.
The 16-point comeback was tied for the third-best for the Wizards this season. They also overcame a 20-point deficit to beat the Nuggets and they came back from down 17 to top the Lakers. Sunday was the 10th time this season the Wizards have erased a double-digit deficit and won.
The resiliency of the Wizards this season, however, has been more so rooted in what they have overcome off the court. Back in January, they dealt with a widespread outbreak of the coronavirus, which caused six games to be postponed. They didn't play a game for 13 days and looked like it once they came back.
The Wizards have also dealt with a long list of injuries, including losing Thomas Bryant and Deni Avdija - two starters - for the season. Bradley Beal missed 12 games, Davis Bertans and Rui Hachimura missed 15. Russell Westbrook was only out for seven, but played hurt to begin the season.
Beal returned on Sunday after missing three games due to a left hamstring strain and was clearly not 100 percent. Yet, he battled through obvious pain to drop 13 points in the fourth quarter to key the victory.
The Wizards have shown a remarkable ability to overcome adversity this season and that has continued in recent weeks, as they followed that 17-32 start by closing out the year 17-6. They are entering the postseason on fire, as a team few will want to face.
Whether they can go on a run that resembles the Caps or Nats may be up to the path they encounter. The NBA playoff format provides far less parity with seven-game series essentially eliminating major upsets.
But the Wizards have gotten this far by consistently defying the odds. Doubt them if you want, especially if they go down early. Just don't be surprised when they fight their way back.