With two of their top scorers sidelined, the Washington Wizards are finding it hard to win games—and secure a postseason berth.
Washington visits the New Jersey Nets on Saturday in the opener of a home-and-home series as it tries to avoid matching a season-high four-game losing streak.
The Wizards (39-36) played their first game since top scorer Gilbert Arenas underwent surgery Thursday on the knee he injured in the first quarter of Wednesday’s loss to Charlotte. Caron Butler, Washington’s third-leading scorer, has missed the last three games with a broken hand. Neither player is expected back unless a deep postseason run is made.
Washington averages an Eastern Conference-high 105.5 points with Arenas and Butler combining for 47.5 per game.
“It is tough,” the Wizards’ DeShawn Stevenson said Friday in a 99-94 loss to Cleveland. “Because for the first 74 games we had him there for the fourth quarter, so now we have to rely on other people.
“This was our first game without Gilbert, and we just have to be more aggressive toward the end.”
“We competed at a high level,” Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said. “We don’t want to just have good numbers - we want to win.”
Washington is sixth in the East, four games ahead of seventh-place New Jersey. The Wizards, who will reach the playoffs for third straight season with a win, is trying to avoid their third four-game skid of the season.
The Wizards have lost both games to the Nets by an average of 12.0 points, including a 113-101 defeat on Feb. 27 in New Jersey.
Jamison averages 19.6 points and the Wizards will need to rely on him more down the stretch. He scored only nine points on 3 of 16 shooting from the field in a 105-93 home loss to the Nets on Nov. 12 and didn’t play against them in February due to a knee injury.
The Nets (35-40) attempt to take advantage of the injury-riddled Wizards after being routed 105-74 at Chicago on Friday night. New Jersey shot just 34.2 percent from the field while allowing the Bulls to shoot 46.0 percent.
“You get out of it what you put in,” Nets coach Lawrence Frank said. “We didn’t put a whole lot into the game.”
Jason Kidd had just nine points, six assists and six rebounds in the loss. He’s averaging 20.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 13.5 assists in two games versus the Wizards this season.
New Jersey is in seventh place in the East, one game ahead of eighth-place Orlando and two in front of ninth-place Indiana. The Nets and Wizards will wrap up their season series Tuesday night at the Verizon Center.