Sparked by a victory over the New Jersey Nets on Sunday afternoon at Verizon Center, the Wizards managed to take a little positive momentum with them as they headed west for a five-game road trip.
“It was great to see us fight like that. The one thing about our team is that we gain confidence as a whole when things start going well, especially after we work hard and get stops,” said Wizards guard Maurice Evans. The Wizards fought back from a 17-point deficit to beat the Nets 98-92 on a strong second half defensive effort.
“I think if we continue to build positive momentum throughout the rest of the season, I think you’ll see growth in everybody’s game. We’re shorthanded, but we’re still fighting and I’m proud of our guys’ effort,” Evans said.
The Wizards are playing without Josh Howard (knee), Andray Blatche (shoulder) and Rashard Lewis (knee). Nick Young is day-to-day with a knee injury. Lewis remains doubtful for the remainder of the season.
The first game of this long west coast swing is Tuesday night against the Trailblazers. The Blazers are 40-30; currently good for the sixth seed in the Western Conference playoffs. They have a shot at catching the Nuggets for the fifth seed, but the Hornets and Grizzlies are right on their heels in the seventh and eighth spots, and the Rockets are only one game out.
In other words, with four weeks left in the NBA regular season, there are a lot of playoff spots still up for grabs, and the Wizards won’t find anyone taking it easy at this time of the year.
For the Wizards, comfortably ensconced in the draft lottery with at 17-51, it’s about taking a look at the rookies and the young players, and trying to find the right pieces to build on for the future, starting with John Wall.
“He [Wall] has had a lot of people – Sam [Cassell], Ryan [Saunders], Wes [Unseld Jr.] - work with him on his shooting and it’s starting to pay off,” said Wizards coach Flip Saunders, who credits his assistant coaches for the hard work they’ve put in to help Wall develop.
“He’s getting confidence and he’s coming down and knocking off that 15-footer. Tonight, we put the ball in his hands and he made shots and he made assists and he made plays,” Saunders said.
“I felt more confident today than I did the whole season,” Wall said.
As the cliché goes, you play them one game at a time.
“We have a one-game winning streak. It’s good, because we have a long flight,” Saunders added before the team boarded a plane for Portland.
The Wizards and Blazers tip off Tuesday night at 10.