While their modest pursuit has taken a big hit as a result of their losing streak, the Washington Wizards have a chance to pick up a game on one of the teams they're trying to catch in the Eastern Conference.
The Wizards will try to keep their goal of a ninth-place finish in the East alive and win for the 10th time in 11 home games Friday night against the Philadelphia 76ers.
Although finishing one spot shy of a playoff berth doesn't seem like much of a goal, Washington coach Randy Wittman believes it's important considering his team has come all the way back from a 4-28 start.
"What do you want to aim for?'' Wittman said. "Eighty wins, when you're 4-28?''
The Wizards (29-50) have certainly been a different club with a 24-22 record since John Wall returned from a knee injury Jan. 12. The point guard has been excellent lately, averaging 26.8 points over his last 10 games.
Wall finished with 17 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds in a 103-98 loss to Miami on Wednesday that snapped Washington's nine-game home winning streak.
The Wizards - 11th in the East - are running out of time in their quest to finish ninth, trailing 10th-place Toronto by 1 1/2 games and the ninth-place 76ers by 2 1/2 with three remaining.
They'll have an opportunity to stop a three-game losing streak overall and inch their way closer to the 76ers, who dropped their third straight and fourth in five games with a 124-101 home loss to Atlanta on Wednesday.
Thaddeus Young had 22 of his team-high 28 points in the first half and Nick Young added 19 off the bench, but the 76ers (31-47) shot 42.0 percent from the field while allowing the Hawks to hit 53.8.
"Our defense over the last few games has really slipped," coach Doug Collins said.
Now Collins' club will have to find a way to slow down a Washington team that has averaged 103.1 points on 47.9 percent shooting over its last 10 at home.
Center Emeka Okafor has put up some solid numbers in this series, finishing with 15 points and 17 rebounds in a 92-84 road loss Jan. 30 and 12 and 16, respectively, in a 90-87 home win March 3.
Washington, though, is likely to be without starting forward Martell Webster after he left Wednesday's loss with an abdominal strain.
"It's super-sore. ... It's one of those times where you've got to shut it down,'' said Webster.
Jrue Holiday, Philadelphia's leading scorer at 17.9 per game, finished with 12 points while missing 10 of 14 shots Wednesday and has averaged 11.8 and shot 21 for 79 (26.6 percent) over his last five games.
The All-Star guard may have a difficult time breaking out of his slump in this contest. He's scored 10.1 per game on 33.3 percent shooting in seven career games in Washington, including a 4-for-19 performance in last month's loss.
The 76ers have averaged 90.3 points and made only 40.0 percent from the field during their skid, while the Wizards have limited opponents to 91.9 and 42.4 in their last 10 at home.
Washington has won six of the last seven meetings in the nation's capital.
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