Though the Bobcats clinched a playoff berth with their most recent win, they still have something to play for: a better playoff seed. As fate would have it, they take on the Wizards in Washington for sixth place. The Wizards hold just a one-game edge over the Bobcats and are expected to have Nene back, though Trevor Ariza is battling the flu. Despite holding a 2-1 season series lead over Washington, getting the win tonight could go a long way in determining Charlotte's first round opponent.
The Wizards' backcourt of Bradley Beal and John Wall has proven to be formidable. Yet, it's been Beal who has been the Bobcats killer. In three games this season Beal has averaged 19.7 points, 2.3 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game on 52.1 shooting from the floor. Already shorthanded a little on the perimeter with Ariza out, containing Beal will be key in shutting down the Wizards' attack. Wall, on the other hand, has struggled shooting from the floor against the Bobcats -- 37.5 percent -- but is shooting near forty percent from three against them and has dished out six assists per contest in spite of his shooting woes. Of course the ultimate goal here is to contain Beal while also managing to keep Wall in check, and certainly not allowing both to go off.
As for the Bobcats, Al Jefferson should be able to continue to give the Wizards trouble. The Wizards have struggled all season long to contain Jefferson and the absence of one of their big bodies should free up all sorts of lanes for Kemba Walker, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and others who thrive off of getting in the lane.
Kidd-Gilchrist himself said after the win on Saturday that they would approach tonight as a playoff game, and it certainly feels that way. This is not quite yet the time to take your foot off of the gas and coast into the postseason since positioning can be improved. Not too many Wednesday night games in April ever feel this way in the NBA, but this will be a big deal to both teams. After all, the Wizards don't want to slide as much as the Bobcats would like to move up. If the Bobcats can continue to follow the gameplan that has led them to success in their other games against the Wizards, they could find themselves with an even more favorable matchup come playoff time. And that all begins tonight.