Thursday , Mar , 29 , 2007 C.Y. Ellis

Wizards in unfamiliar territory

(Sports Network) – Please excuse the Washington Wizards if they aren’t sure
what to do or how to act at this point of the season.

See, it’s been a while since the club has been in contention this late in the

With a victory over Philadelphia on Wednesday, coupled with Miami’s loss to
Toronto, the Wizards retook the lead in the Southeast Division by a half-game
over the Heat. It marked the first time since the 1978-79 campaign the Wizards
owned their division’s lead at this point of the season.

Not that the Wizards are happy about it. In fact, they never should have let
the dangerous Heat get this close. However, a 4-7 February and a 7-7 March so
far — Washington wraps its play this month against the Raptors on Friday —
has allowed the streaking Heat to make it a tight race.

Washington and Miami play just once more this season, April 11 in Florida.
Winning the division is big between the two clubs, as it could mean the
difference between a fourth seed and the sixth spot in the East.

Injuries have also been to blame. Antawn Jamison missed 12 games in February
due to a sprained left knee, and Caron Butler’s career season was derailed for
the Wizards’ last six games due to a left knee contusion.

Jamison has been back in the lineup since March 2, and netted 20-plus points
in each of Washington’s last eight games until scoring just 14 against the
Sixers on Wednesday. He is second on the team at 19.8 points per game, a full
10 points behind leader Gilbert Arenas (29.8).

Jamison is also grabbing 8.1 rebounds per game and had 11 boards against

That game also marked the return of Butler, who contributed 21 points as his
club snapped a three-game losing streak. Washington is 36-25 this season with
Butler in the starting lineup, as the Connecticut product is averaging career
highs across the board in points (19.1) rebounds (7.5), assists (3.7) and
steals (2.1).

Washington has six home games left on the regular season schedule and is 26-9
at the Verizon Center this season. That leaves the club just three wins shy of
the 2004-05 club’s record 29 home wins.