- The Washington Times - Friday, March 28, 2003

Hold the floral arrangements and condolence cards on Fun Street.
The ever-baffling Wizards have shown signs of life in the last two games, if not a pronounced refusal to yield to nearly a season's worth of incriminating evidence.
The Wizards have resuscitated their playoff hopes by fashioning a two-game winning streak in the midst of what appeared to be a season-killing, six-game swing on the West Coast.
It also helps to have the Bucks as your principal antagonist in a playoff race.
The George Karl-led Bucks are enduring another late-season swoon, with their loss in Denver on Wednesday night rising to the level of unforgivable.
You just can't lose to a glorified CBA team in the throes of a playoff battle. You can't wait to turn up the intensity until you are down by as many as 20 points in the second half. That is not a commitment. That is an indictment. That is how the Bucks lost to the Nuggets after closing the deficit to two points late in the game.
Doug Collins has suggested that a 41-41 record is necessary to reach the playoffs. The rough guess, based on history, is possibly overstated in these equal-opportunity times in the Eastern Conference. A sub-.500 record just might turn out to be playoff sufficient.
Either way, the Wizards, by winning the last two games, have reclaimed control of their postseason fate, specifically by one game in the loss column over the Bucks. The Wizards need that game, because the Bucks hold the tiebreaker.
Given the circumstances, the Wizards are in no position to be giddy. They play the Lakers in Los Angeles tonight and then stop in Denver on Sunday before returning home to play the Kings on Wednesday.
With the exception of the Kings, April looms as a potentially kind month for the Wizards. With 11 games left, nine in April, the Wizards do not have to stretch their imaginations to come up with seven more wins, which would put them at 41-41.
Circle these seven games on your calendar: Nuggets, Hawks, Cavaliers and Heat on the road, Celtics, Hawks and Knicks at home.
The Bucks, meanwhile, have a favorable turn in their schedule as well. The Bucks have 10 games left, with six games at home and seven against nonplayoff teams. Yet the Bucks, like the Wizards, are fundamentally opposed to the hint of prosperity.
The finish promises to torment both parties, assuming the two remain true to their hair-pulling identities.
Counting victories is always a shaky proposition with the Wizards. Any team that could lose at home to the collection of 10-day contract wannabes from Toronto in January is not to be trusted against any opponent.
The Wizards could beat the Lakers or revert to the roll-over position tonight.
You never know with this bunch.
The Wizards split the season series with the Pacers but dropped three out of four to the Raptors. They lost two of the more winnable games on this trip but then won two of the least winnable games on back-to-back nights.
Their latest about-face coincides with Tyronn Lue being back in the starting lineup at point guard. He hit a number of big shots against the Trail Blazers. He also directs the offense more effectively than Larry Hughes.
One overlooked quality of a point guard is the ability to deliver the ball to a teammate at precisely the right moment, in Lue's case to a cutting Michael Jordan or Jerry Stackhouse. A one-second delay is sometimes the difference between an open jump shot and a hand-in-the-face attempt.
The Wizards remain susceptible to periods of stagnation on offense, notably for the longest time in the fourth quarter against the Sonics. The drought was broken by a sweet pass from Lue to Jordan for an easy bank shot. Then Jordan hit two more shots and Stackhouse converted a put-back to settle the issue.
Collins is still looking for answers after Jordan, Stackhouse, Lue and Christian Laettner.
Kwame Brown is suddenly getting more minutes, a mixed development. Brown can complete a nifty dunk in one breath or make a nice pass to a cutting Laettner. He also can forget how much time is left on the clock and shoot before he should just before halftime, with the omission resulting in a 3-pointer by Brent Barry.
Even Bobby Simmons, consigned to basketball purgatory in Mobile, Ala., part of the season, is receiving quality minutes. It was his late miss that led to the rebound and basket by Stackhouse.
There is still some life in the Wizards after all.

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