The decision to rest John Wall last night in Brooklyn may turn out to be a call Randy Wittman regrets.
There have been 119 Game 7’s in NBA history. The home team is 95-24 in those games. In probability format, that’s equal to 80% winning for the team playing Game 7 at home.
Over the last five years, home teams are 12-3 in Game 7’s. In case you weren’t sure, home court advantage DOES MATTER in the NBA playoffs.
With a reasonable chance over their final four games to secure home court advantage in the first-round of the playoffs, the Wizards decided to punt. If in three weeks, the Wizards play and lose a Game 7 on the road in Toronto or Chicago, Wittman will have some explaining to do.
Of course, the reasons for resting Wall may be totally legitimate and calculated. Perhaps there’s an injury we don’t know about. Perhaps Wittman believes that Wall was in desperate need of days off to rest a weary body in preparation for the playoffs. Wittman might answer a future pre-Game 7 question about why Wall rested in Brooklyn last night by saying that that without a fresh Wall, they wouldn’t have made it to a Game 7.
So yes, there are logical explanations for resting Wall. There’s also a logical argument against it.
For starters, Wall was rested. He hadn’t played in 6 days and in the three games before that, he had played an average of just 31.5 minutes, some four minutes lower than his average for the year.
Secondly, even if he did play the last few games in an effort to gain 4th or better in the standings, he would’ve had up to an additional 3 days of rest before the playoffs started anyway. In total, he would’ve had six days of rest before last night and another three between the end of the regular season and Game 1 of a playoff series.
Thirdly, prior to the two-games off against Philly and Brooklyn, he was playing arguably the best basketball of the season and he looked fresher than he had at any point this year.
Next, with Brooklyn fighting for a playoff spot, last night was a terrific chance to get a taste of playoff-urgency basketball. It was a heated environment at Barclays and it would’ve been good preparation for what’s to come beginning next weekend.
Lastly and most importantly, with two of their next three opponents (Atlanta & Cleveland) likely in rest-mode themselves, last night’s game was the key to a potential late-season run to home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. A win would’ve put the Wizards a game back of both Chicago and Toronto with three to play.
The struggling Bulls still have a trip to Brooklyn themselves while the Raptors going into last night had three straight on the road including games at playoff-hopefuls Boston and Miami. The chances of the Wizards beating one or both of those teams out and gaining home-court in the first-round were well within reach…..until the give-up game last night in Brooklyn.
Some might point to last year’s lack of playoff success at home as a reason they shouldn’t have strived for it. Others might point to an effort to avoid finishing 3rd in the East because of a potential second-round matchup with Cleveland.
Personally, I’d rather have increased the chances of actually winning a first-round series before worrying about a potential 2nd-round opponent. I just hope that resting their best player and conceding home-court advantage early in the NBA playoffs was much more of a risk-reward calculation than a wing-it hunch. We’ll find out over the next few weeks.