April 15, 2014

The Brooklyn Nets have been eliminated from the playoffs for weeks, but their final five games could have a say in how the Eastern Conference's top eight shakes out.

The Washington Wizards have to hope they're still alive by the time they meet again next week.

With their postseason hopes almost as dim as can be, the Wizards try to avoid being eliminated by the end of Wednesday night's action as they host a Nets club that might need a media guide to identify its own teammates.

Washington (37-40) won twice and played Golden State and the Los Angeles Clippers tough on a five-game road trip, but it returns to the nation's capital with little hope of cracking the East's playoff picture.

Catching Detroit is likely the Wizards' only chance - they've already won the tiebreaker with the Pistons and play at The Palace on Friday - but Randy Wittman's team might not even make it off the floor with a mathematical shot Wednesday night.

''The fat lady hasn't started singing yet,'' Bradley Beal said after Sunday's 114-109 loss to the Clippers. ''Some crazy things have happened at the end of the season, so anything can happen. It's just all a matter of time.''

Washington should feel pretty good about its chances of at least handling its own business. The Nets (21-56) have lost their last five games by an average of 19.6 points, and prior to Sunday's 106-87 loss to New Orleans, they announced that Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young would be shut down for the rest of the season.

Brooklyn's starting lineup Sunday included rookie Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and four players who have played for a total of 18 teams in their 18 cumulative seasons.

''It's going to be hard, but that's when guys, especially on the bench, just have to step it up,'' said Sean Kilpatrick, who has averaged 13.6 points in the past 17 games after totaling 27 in nine before that. ''Now that everyone is getting more so an opportunity to play with those two being out, it gives, especially the fours and fives, an opportunity to show what they got.''

There's no incentive for the Nets to tank with their lottery pick headed to Boston, so they might as well relish the opportunity to play spoiler against some likely East playoff teams. They'll host the Wizards on Monday and also play Charlotte, Indiana and Toronto to close what will almost certainly be the 11th season with 25 wins or fewer in the franchise's 40-year history.

Brooklyn has allowed an NBA-worst 112.8 points per 100 possessions over its last 10 games, something John Wall should be hungry to exploit. Wall had 22 points and 13 assists while Marcin Gortat scored 25 in the first meeting with the Nets, a 111-96 Wizards win at Barclays Center on Dec. 26.

That was against a far healthier and at least somewhat more competitive Brooklyn team, while Washington played without Beal and Nene.

A strong finish from Beal would at the very least give the Wizards a little more confidence regardless of whether their next game is in mid-April or early November. The oft-injured guard is struggling to find any consistency, three times being held to single digits in at least 29 minutes over his last seven games while averaging 22 points in the other four.

His presence has been more damaging defensively. Washington has given up 112.6 points per 100 possessions when Beal's been on the floor over the last seven and just 91.8 when he's been on the bench.

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