Washington (25-17) got a season-high 35 points from Antawn Jamison and Gilbert Arenas added 25 points and 10 assists Friday in a 99-96 win over Detroit. The victory was the Wizards’ fifth in six games and moved them into first place in the East, a half-game ahead of the Pistons and Cleveland.
“That was a heavyweight fight,” Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said. “We took a Joe Frazier left hook, and we got right up.
“I know (the Pistons) are going to be ready for a rematch. Just because we’re up in the standings, we are not the champions of the East. They’ve been the champions and we are always going to be the hunter, not the hunted.”
The Wizards, though, are starting to look like the latter after finishing fifth in the East last season at 42-40—22 games behind first-place Detroit.
Washington’s emergence as one of the top teams in the conference has centered around Arenas, Jamison and Caron Butler.
Arenas is among the league leaders with a career-best 29.6 points and 7.5 assists per game. The All-Star guard has averaged 27.1 points in 16 games against the Celtics, including 44 in a 124-117 win Nov. 4.
Jamison has also been dominant against Boston, scoring 24.6 points per game in 18 meetings.
The forward is averaging 21.8 points and 8.4 rebounds on the season, and has scored 27.5 points per game in Washington’s last four wins.
Butler, who had a season-low eight points Friday, is having his finest season with 20.8 points and 8.0 rebounds a contest. He’s averaged 23.0 points in his last four games against the Celtics.
The Wizards hope to avoid a letdown against woeful Boston (12-30) as they go for their fourth consecutive victory in the series.
The Celtics dropped their season-high 10th consecutive game Friday, 96-90 at Toronto. Boston hasn’t lost 11 in a row since tying the franchise mark of 13 consecutive defeats from Feb. 5-March 1, 1997.
By ending that slide Sunday, the Celtics would also stop their franchise-record eight-game home skid.
Boston is a league-worst 4-16 at home and has a conference-low .286 overall winning percentage.
The Celtics’ woes have been compounded by a rash of injuries to Paul Pierce (left foot), Wally Szczerbiak (right ankle) and Tony Allen (left knee). The three players account for 55.0 of the Celtics’ 96.9 points per game, and none of them are expected back in the near future. Allen is out for the season.
The absence of the three regulars has put more responsibility on Al Jefferson, who had 20 points, 10 rebounds and five assists Friday. The forward-center is averaging a career-best 14.2 points and a team-leading 10.4 rebounds.