Two of their key players are out with injuries, but the Washington Wizards are hardly pushovers without them.
The Wizards will be trying to build on one of their biggest offensive nights of the season on Monday when they host the Dallas Mavericks.
Washington’s star point guard, Gilbert Arenas, has not played since Nov. 16 because of left knee surgery and center Etan Thomas has not played this season following open heart surgery in October. In an informal talk with reporters on Friday, Arenas said he hopes to return by March 1, while Thomas said earlier in the day he hopes to come back this season.
Thomas showed up to practice on Saturday, though he did not participate.
“Having him around lifts the spirits of the guys,” teammate Roger Mason told the Wizards’ official Web site. “We missed him, just his presence around the locker room, to see him helped make practice a little more energized, and guys were really excited to see him.”
The Wizards (21-17) are 18-12 since losing Arenas and have won six of their last eight, including Friday’s 111-98 victory over New York. Caron Butler, averaging a team-high and career-best 21.7 points this season, and Antawn Jamison, who is scoring 21.5 points per game, have helped to pick up the slack with Arenas and Thomas out.
Jamison scored 32 points Friday against the Knicks, while Butler added 22 and stretched his made free-throw streak to an NBA season-high 54. Washington’s bench also helped out, as Nick Young scored 12 points and Mason chipped in 10.
“If those guys continue to play well, and I do believe they will,” Butler said, “it makes things easier for us.”
The Wizards finished with their most points since scoring 118 against Memphis on Nov. 24, recorded their highest first-half point total of the season (61), and shot 62 percent in the first half and 57 percent for the game. Point guard Antonio Daniels, who returned after missing Tuesday’s 105-93 loss in New York with a knee injury, helped spark the offense with eight points and seven assists.
“He kept us organized a lot,” coach Eddie Jordan said of Daniels. “Guys feel comfortable when he’s the lead guard.”
The Wizards now look to sweep a season series from Dallas for the first time since 1996-97.
Washington has won its last two games against the Mavericks (27-12) after dropping six straight in the series, averaging 108.0 points in the two victories. Butler had 35 points and Jamison 27 in a 110-98 win in Dallas on Nov. 26 in the first matchup this season.
Dirk Nowitzki had 31 points in that game for the Mavs, and is coming off a 20-point effort in Saturday’s 111-96 win over Seattle. Nowitzki is averaging 22.1 points this season - his lowest since averaging 21.8 in 2003-04 - but has scored at least 20 points in 14 of his last 15 games.
The Mavericks led by double figures for most of Saturday’s win, their eighth in nine games. They had not played since a 122-120 loss in Sacramento on Monday.
“We came out and played pretty well,” Mavs forward Josh Howard said. “It was great to get back to a game. But we had the chance to work on things to get ready in case we make playoffs.”
Jerry Stackhouse had 10 points after missing Monday’s game with a strained hamstring.