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Wizards on West Coast trip with bit of confidence after win

- The Washington Times - Monday, March 21, 2011

Sparked by a victory over the New Jersey Nets on Sunday afternoon at Verizon Center, the Wizards will take a little positive momentum with them as they head west for a five-game road trip.

"It was great to see us fight like that," Wizards guard Maurice Evans said. "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."

The Wizards fought back from a 17-point deficit to beat the Nets 98-92 with 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," Evans said. "We're shorthanded, but we're still fighting, and I'm proud of our guys' effort."

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 in Portland. 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 against them.

For the Wizards, comfortably ensconced in the draft lottery at 17-51, it's about taking a look at the rookies and the young players, and about trying to find the right pieces to build on for the future, starting with John Wall.

"[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 have put in to help Wall develop.

"He's getting confidence, and he's coming down and knocking off that 15-footer. [On Sunday], 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.

Picking up a rare victory before heading out on the road didn't hurt, either.

"We have a one-game winning streak," Saunders said before the team boarded a plane for Portland. "It's good, because we have a long flight."

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