The Washington Wizards know now is the time for them to make their move in the Eastern Conference.
The Wizards look to move closer to .500 when they host the streaking Atlanta Hawks.
Washington lost 117-112 to the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday, failing to move back to .500 for the first time since Dec. 6, when they were 8-8.
“That .500 mark is haunting us right now,” said Gilbert Arenas, who scored 35 points for his 21st 30-point performance this season.
After getting off to a slow start, the Wizards have won eight of their last 12 games and are in eighth place in the conference.
Antawn Jamison has helped fuel Washington’s surge. He leads the conference with 17 games where he has scored 20 points and pulled down 10 rebounds. He has also done so in six of his last nine games.
“I have that swagger. I feel like myself again. I’m just playing hard,” Jamison said. “I’m playing with a lot more intensity. I’m positive about everything. It’s almost like a 180 from where I was when I was struggling offensively.
“It was affecting my defense and also my rebounding. All of a sudden when you get it offensively, everything else comes in there, too.”
“You don’t want to come across a scenario going into the end of March or beginning of April when you have to win eight out of 10,” Jamison said. “This is a great opportunity for us to create some distance and climb up in the standings now.
“You don’t want to continue to be around .500, one or two games above, one or two games below, and then in the last month or so you really have to turn it on.”
The Hawks on Friday beat Orlando 96-94, winning three straight for the first time since April 2004. Atlanta, which has had four chances for a three-game winning streak this season, surpassed its win total from last season, when they did not win consecutive games.
Joe Johnson had 23 points and 11 assists, including the winning jumper with less than a second left, and Al Harrington added 18 points and 12 rebounds. Forward Josh Smith had 15 points and 10 rebounds for his second straight double-double and third of the season.
“This is not the end of it,” Johnson said of the winning streak. “We want to keep adding to it and make the game fun.”
The Hawks have not won four in a row since April 9-14, 2003, but have lost their last seven meetings with the Wizards.