The halfway point is the perfect time for the Washington Wizards to assess where their season is going.
They haven’t been this pleased in 26 years.
Washington looks to continue its outstanding play this month when it visits the Orlando Magic in the opener of a home-and-home series.
Because they haven’t had a winning season since 1997-98, very little was expected of the Wizards this season. Washington, however, has been one of the league’s biggest surprises and is on pace to win 52 games, which would be the franchise’s best season since the 1978-79 team finished 54-28.
After slumping to an 8-8 record in December, the Wizards have regained their momentum this month, winning 11 of their first 13 games.
Washington needs wins in its final two games this month to secure the best month in franchise history. The 1976-77 and the 1972-73 teams each went 12-2 in January.
“Our milestone is a lot bigger than this, a lot higher,” Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said. “We set the bar high. We don’t talk about it much, but we have some plans in that locker room.”
Even a thumb injury to co-captain Larry Hughes, second on the team with 21.2 points per game, caused only a momentary hiccup in the team’s momentum. Washington lost its first two games without Hughes—expected to miss four to six weeks—but has since won four straight, including Wednesday’s 117-107 victory over Philadelphia.
That was the Wizards’ 26th win of the season, surpassing last year’s entire total.
“That’s the best thing,” Hughes said. “Not the seven-game win streak, not the win streak we’re on now, but just getting that monkey off our back of only winning 25 games last year.”
Gilbert Arenas had 33 points, six rebounds and a season-high nine assists Wednesday, leading Washington to its eighth straight home win.
“We can’t be happy about where we are,” said Arenas, averaging 32.4 points over his last five games. “We have more things to accomplish. Everything that we have done to this point is nice, but there is no glory in half-season standings.”
Orlando notched its 22nd win—surpassing last season’s total—with a 115-111 victory over Philadelphia on Saturday, but has since dropped its last two games.
The Magic were outscored 18-4 in the final 4:05 of Tuesday’s 95-83 loss at Memphis, their third loss in four games.
“That’s tough, man,” Francis said. “We faced the same thing (Monday) night and couldn’t get it done.”
Orlando has won five straight home games against Washington.