An injury has sidelined their leading scorer for the past two games, yet somehow the East’s worst team is winning without him.
The Wizards aren’t sure if they’ll have Butler on Tuesday when they continue a three-game road trip against the New Orleans Hornets, but they will have a chance to win a third consecutive game for the first time since April.
Butler averages 21.0 points, just ahead of Antawn Jamison’s 20.8 to pace Washington (6-23), but having two premier scorers hasn’t made much of a difference in what’s been a miserable first two months.
The Wizards had lost seven in a row heading into Cleveland on Christmas night, and made it eight straight after blowing a seven-point lead in the final two minutes.
Butler tweaked his ankle that night, sidelining him for Saturday’s game against Oklahoma City. Yet Washington won 104-95, its first victory since Dec. 9, behind 29 points from Jamison.
The opposition was much more difficult on Monday, when the Wizards traveled to Houston. But with Butler out again, Jamison stepped up. He scored 30 points and grabbed 12 rebounds - despite missing time in the fourth after knocking knees with a Rockets player - to lead Washington to an 89-87 victory.
“It’s about effort,” said center Andray Blatche, who’s averaging 12.8 points and 7.5 rebounds since being inserted into the starting lineup on Dec. 15. “We’ve turned it around since the Cleveland game. We all came out together with a lot of effort, played hard and we realized what kind of team we can be. We’re just building from that game.”
Butler tested his ankle before the win over the Rockets, ultimately opting to sit. He’ll be a game-time decision against New Orleans, and if he sits again, it’ll be the fourth straight game he’s missed versus the Hornets due to an injury.
Oddly enough, the Wizards have won the past three meetings with Butler in street clothes. DeShawn Stevenson scored a career-high 33 points in Washington’s last trip to New Orleans, a 95-92 win on Feb. 25, 2008.
Stevenson, shooting a woeful 31.4 percent this season, has 34 total points in his last eight games.
Paul scored 11 points in the final 3:36 and found West, who hit a fadeaway jumper with 2.5 seconds remaining, to help New Orleans rally for a 105-103 win on Sunday.
“I saw D. West right there and I know that’s what he does,” said Paul, who had 19 points and 12 assists for his Western Conference-leading 21st double-double. “I tight-roped a pass through there and he knocked it down as usual.”
Paul (20.1 points per game) and West (19.5) have been excellent as usual, but Peja Stojakovic’s production has been down this season. The three-time All-Star is shooting just 40.6 percent - his worst since his rookie season 10 years ago - and his scoring is down to 13.0 ppg from 16.4 in 2007-08.
Stojakovic missed five games with back spasms before returning against the Pacers, chipping in 12 points on 5-of-12 shooting.
He also struggled with his shooting in both of the Hornets’ meetings with Washington last season. Stojakovic shot 31.0 percent (9-of-29) in the two losses.