Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Banged Up Wiz in Need of a Win

The road is about to get very tough for the Washington Wizards and as they head into tonight's game at Philadelphia looking to halt a three-game skid, they know nothing short of a win is acceptable.

Caron Butler returned to the lineup Sunday against the Lakers after sitting out three games with a strained hip flexor but his presence wasn't enough to overcome a 30-point showing from Kobe Bryant and the Lakers handed their hosts a 103-91 loss. The Wizards will need a better showing, particularly defensively where they have let up over the last week, when they face Andre Iguodala and the Sixers (18-30) tonight.

Last season the Wizards were 27-18 heading into February but finished the month with a disappointing 4-7 mark. At 24-22 the Wiz are still in control of the sixth seed in the East, but with San Antonio coming to town and a four-game road trip out West on the docket, Eddie Jordan's squad needs to pick it up.


"We're not playing real good basketball right now but the key is that we can't allow this to turn into a long losing streak or a real bad stretch where we dig ourselves into a hole. It's important that we get back to playing the way we were defensively because that has been the thing keeping us in games all season." - DeShawn Stevenson on the recent skid

The Last Meeting

The teams split their first two meetings with the Wizards taking the first in a 116-101 victory at the Phone Booth on November 20. Andray Blatche exploded for a career-high 26 (including a Gilbert-esque first half buzzer beating 3) to lead all scorers and Antawn Jamison and DeShawn Stevenson each had 19.

Ten days later, the Sixers overcome a wretched shooting night in which they missed all 14 of their three-point attempts to set a new team record for futility beyond the arc, to nip the Wizards in Philly, 85-84. Samuel Dalembert had 19 points and 11 boards for the Sixers who outrebounded Washington by 2 (42-40) and forced the Wiz into 18 turnovers.


There is no question the Wizards know how much they need this game. With no guaranteed wins on the horizon (v. Spurs, at Denver, at Phoenix, at Golden State, at LA Clips), Butler and the boys need to get back to their winning ways and pronto. The 76ers present a great opportunity for the Wiz to get it done, but they've been playing pretty well of late. They've lost three of five but dropped a 106-108 decision at home to Orlando following a 112-69 thrashing of the Bucks. They're also averaging 104+ points over their last four.

But I still like the Wizards to come out swinging, knowing what's on the line for them. I don't see AJ and Caron letting this one get away from them to go into their upcoming schedule with a four-game losing streak.
The Wizards get it done in Philly, 103-92.

All Photos AP/Getty Images

-- The Tar Heel

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