The Washington Wizards look to avenge letting a prime opportunity slip through their fingers when they host the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday.
Washington's task will be made trickier by the ongoing absence of injured guard Bradley Beal.
The Wizards (32-38) squandered a 13-point lead in the fourth quarter of a 120-116 setback to the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday.
Washington, which would have clinched a berth in the play-in tournament with a win, can still do so by winning either of their final two games, both at home. Following the Cleveland game, the Wizards close against the Charlotte Hornets on Sunday.
The Wizards are two games ahead of the Bulls, who beat the Toronto Raptors 114-102 on Thursday, but Chicago holds the head-to-head tiebreaker.
Davis Bertans sank a 3-pointer to give Washington a 100-87 lead Wednesday before the bottom fell out. His bid for a tying 3-pointer with 8.6 seconds remaining rimmed out, leading to the Wizards' second straight loss to the Hawks.
"We are (ticked) off, as we should be," Bertans said. "We want to win games. These two were important for us to get closer to that eight spot, having a better chance at the playoffs. As natural as it is, it's a good way to react to losses. It's going to help us for the next games."
Russell Westbrook collected 34 points, 15 assists, five rebounds and three steals for the Wizards, who were without Bradley Beal. The electric Beal, who averages a team-best 31.4 points per game, will be sidelined again Friday due to a left hamstring strain. His status for Sunday is uncertain.
Beal erupted for 33 points in Washington's 119-110 win over Cleveland on April 25 and added 19 more five nights later in a 122-93 victory versus the Cavaliers.
Those performances notwithstanding, Washington coach Scott Brooks on Wednesday was left to lament yet another fourth quarter that slipped away.
"We need to play better fourth quarters," Brooks said. "We seem to have a couple of stretches in a couple of quarters, whether I can do a better job of rotations -- those are things that I will critique myself, and my staff will go back and try to figure out ways to get more consistent minutes on both ends of the floor."
The Cavaliers (22-48) snapped a season-high 11-game losing streak with a 102-94 victory over the Boston Celtics on Wednesday.
Kevin Love scored a season-best 30 points and Collin Sexton added 28 to go along with eight assists for Cleveland, which recorded its first win since April 21.
While the win may have "cost" the Cavaliers a few percentage points in the upcoming draft lottery, Love was more interested in the statement it made in terms of the team's overall growth.
"It is what it is," Love said. "We've never really thought about that. We just want to continue to grow. Like (coach J.B. Bickerstaff) says, 'We're not going to lay down.' Obviously, we've lost several games the last few weeks, had a lot of guys out. But we just want to continue to play better and obviously I don't even know where we are in terms of that (the draft lottery)."
Sexton had 22 points in the most recent meeting with the Wizards, but he also had a career-high eight turnovers.
--Field Level Media