The Washington Wizards continue their battle for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs, while the Orlando Magic try to move closer to the final postseason berth in the East when the teams conclude their season series.
The Wizards won their third straight Wednesday, beating Atlanta 102-99 at home behind Gilbert Arenas.
The All-Star guard scored nine of his 36 points in the final 3 1/2 minutes, including the go-ahead basket on a driving layup in traffic with 34 seconds to play, and the Wizards won despite being without coach Eddie Jordan for most of the game.
Jordan left in the first quarter with a virus, returned, then left for good in the second quarter to be treated for dehydration.
Assistant Mike O’Koren coached the Wizards in Jordan’s absence. Washington went 1-1 in November with O’Koren in charge when Jordan was hospitalized with a blood clot.
Jordan is expected to return Friday for Washington, which has lost 271 man-games this season due to players’ injuries and illnesses.
“Everybody has to take their turn,” said guard Larry Hughes, whose turn consisted of 20 games on the sidelines with a broken thumb earlier this season. “It’s something we have to deal with. We have to go out and win without Coach.”
Orlando had its deficit to Philadelphia for the final East playoff berth reduced to one game Wednesday when it beat Toronto 108-96 and the 76ers lost 116-87 at Phoenix.
The win was the second straight for Orlando, with both coming against last-place teams Toronto and Atlanta. But after previously losing 10 of 11 games, none of the Magic players were complaining.
“We’ve lost quite a few games to teams with losing records this season, so it’s not like we can look down our noses at anybody,” said forward Grant Hill, who led Orlando with 21 points. “We need to start building momentum so winning and winning at home is a good start.”
Orlando has won six straight at home over Washington since a 96-92 loss on Dec. 21, 2001.
“We’re slowly starting to get it, but we don’t want to get in over our heads,” Magic guard Steve Francis said. “We’ve got to take it one game at a time and see what happens.”
STANDINGS (through March 30): Wizards - 2nd place, 13 GB, Southeast Division. Magic - 3rd place, 19 1/2 GB, Southeast Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Wizards - Arenas, 25.6 ppg and 5.2 apg; Antawn Jamison, 7.8 rpg. Magic - Francis, 21.4 ppg and 7.0 apg; Howard, 10.1 rpg.
SEASON SERIES: Magic, 2-1.
LAST MEETING: Jan. 29; Magic, 103-97. At Washington, Francis had 32 points, nine rebounds and seven assists, and his off-balance turnaround 14-footer with 24 seconds left put the Magic ahead for good. Arenas led the Wizards with 37 points.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Wizards - 15-21 on the road; Magic - 23-12 at home.
INJURIES: Wizards - F Jamison (knee); C Brendan Haywood (thumb); F Jarvis Hayes (knee); G Anthony Peeler (knee). Magic - G Jameer Nelson (ribs); F Hedo Turkoglu (wrist); G Doug Christie (ankle); C Andrew DeClercq (knee).