Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Objects in Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear

Milwaukee Bucks (23-40) at Washington Wizards (30-32)
Tuesday, March 11 - 7pm
Verizon Center

The Washington Wizards' grasp on the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference is slipping...and fast.

After a brutal stretch from January 30 to February 22 that saw the Wiz drop 10-of-11 games, the boys in blue appeared to right the ship with four wins in five games to begin the month. But a quick glance behind them in the standings reveals that that once-comfortable lead over the Philadelphia 76ers has been whittled down to a single game.

Before a loss to Boston on Monday, the Sixers (30-34) had reeled off four straight victories. They've quietly won 12-of-18 since Feb. 1st and don't show any signs of letting up behind the inspired play of Andre Iguodala (19.6 ppg), Samuel Dalembert (10.1 rpg) and Andre Miller (6.7 apg). Meanwhile the Wizards have gone in the opposite direction, dropping 12-of-18 since the start of last month.

Washington received some good news yesterday as Caron Butler returned to practice for the first time since the All-Star break. With CB and Gilbert Arenas - who returned to practice last week after three months on the sideline - getting back into game shape, the reinforcements are on their way. But with the race heating up, the Wizards can't afford to wait around for their big scorers to return to the floor. They need to win now to stave off Sixers and Hawks (26-37) and keep themselves in position to make a run at the Raptors for the fifth seed down the stretch.

Saturday's 97-100 home loss to the Bobcats - who, at 5-0 in March are one of the hottest teams in the league...but they're still the Bobcats - highlighted Washington's inability to put string together consistent performances both on the road at in the comfy confines of the Phone Booth.

One night after notching their first victory north of the border in a long, long time, they gave up 34 points to Jason Richardson and 23 to former D-League MVP Matt Carroll, wasting a 30-points, 10-board effort from Antawn Jamison.
The Wiz fell behind early, surrendering a season-high 35 first-quarter points to the Bobs and from they were forced to play catch-up the entire way.

Tonight the Milwaukee Bucks come to town, another team ripe for the picking, but with the way things have gone lately, who knows which Wizards we'll see on the floor.

The Last Time
Butler went off for a career-high 40 on Jan. 27 in Milwaukee but the Wizards still managed to lose 105-102 in overtime. Tough Juice - sorry but that moniker just doesn't roll off the tongue like it did earlier this season - has played only two games since.

The Bucks managed to win that one even without the services of leading-scored Michael Redd and Charlie Villanueva as Mo Williams scored 25 and Charlie Bell chipped in 22 off the bench.

-- The Tar Heel

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