- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Wizards averted a postseason sentence with the conference elite, if only for 24 hours, by holding off the Bucks 116-103 last night on Fun Street.

The Wizards overcame Michael Redd’s 23-point outburst in the third quarter and a sense of uncertainty early in the fourth quarter.

The victory over the Bucks ensures the Wizards can do no worse than the No. 7 seed, unappealing as that seeding is.

That would mean a postseason date with the Heat, owners of a zillion consecutive victories against the Wizards.

The Wizards prefer to meet the Cavaliers in the postseason, then the Nets, if necessary.

Their final exam comes tonight in Auburn Hills, Mich., where the Pistons are napping until the start of the playoffs.

That encouraging proposition is undoubtedly misguided, given the up-and-down proclivities of the Wizards in 81 games this season.

The watching of the scoreboard remains necessary: Orlando at Indiana and Toronto at Chicago, with the Nos. 5-7 seeds negotiable.

The Wizards would be wise to expect the worst in those venues.

The carry-on luggage of the Wizards is stuffed with the notion that it never should have come to this.

It never should have been about Richie Frahm’s 16 points in Minnesota in November.

It never should have been about Maurice Williams’ game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer that silenced the faithful in early December.

There have been so many desperate finishes, so many outcomes the Wizards desperately would like to have back, perhaps as many as 10 in all.

Not all of it was their doing, if you recall the seeing-impaired awarding two free-throw attempts to Shaquille O’Neal near the end of regulation in December and the series of games in which opponents were allowed to commit a high number of human rights violations against Gilbert Arenas.

The Wizards would like to have back the game in Portland, Ore., held in late December in front of a corporal’s guard against a team barely a cut above an NBDL contingent. That perhaps was the nadir of the worst month in the professional career of Antawn Jamison. That month cost Jamison serious All-Star consideration.

Jamison re-emerged in January, as the Wizards did after a fitful start that included embarrassing losses at home to the Rockets and Jazz.

This is not to overlook the team’s no-show against the mutant team of Madison Square Garden, where the Poet confronted Maurice Taylor in the tunnel after the game.

Taylor saw a contradiction in the aggression of the Poet.

“I thought he writes poetry,” Taylor said.

By then, the could-have-been games were starting to intrude on the potential excellence of the team’s season.

Jamison appeared to hit the game-winning shot against the Hornets in mid-February before, inexplicably, with 0.5 seconds left, David West found himself open beyond the top of the key and was able to drain a 22-footer as time expired.

For the Wizards, that shot was the insult to the injury of a squandered 19-point lead in the second half. That one stung more than most.

Paul Pierce reprised that circumstance in overtime in early March. His leaning jumper from the left wing beat both the clock and the hand in his face.

Somewhere along the way, the body language between coach Eddie Jordan and the 7-foot Diva dissolved into each ignoring the presence of the other.

This merely showed that some players are slower learners than others. The next time the Diva takes responsibility for an inadequate performance will be the first in his five seasons with the Wizards.

The Wizards seemed to have found an agreeable sense of themselves in Boston two weeks ago, only to have it all come apart with the thumb injury to Caron Butler that resulted in a five-game losing streak and a playoff berth stuck on hold.

The latter has been resolved.

So now the quality of the berth will be determined on the last night of the regular season.

And the Wizards can only rue that it has come to this.

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