- The Washington Times - Friday, April 1, 2005

A glance at the 12 games left on the schedule suggests the Washington Wizards are a lock for the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs and the resulting homecourt advantage.

The Wizards have a cumulative record of 18-12 this season against the teams they will face in those games.

In fact, the Wizards (40-30) own a winning record against nine of the 12 teams and have a chance to sweep the Charlotte Bobcats, Indiana Pacers and New Jersey Nets as they did the woeful Atlanta Hawks.

But coach Eddie Jordan won’t allow the Wizards to build a false sense of security.

Jordan, who left in the first half of the Wizards’ 102-99 victory over Atlanta on Wednesday because of illness, was feeling better yesterday and made the trip with the team to Orlando. Tonight the Wizards will face a desperate Magic team that has lost 10 of its last 13 games and sees its playoff hopes dwindling. Orlando is 1-2 against the Wizards this season.

“The season is a fragile thing,” Jordan said. “You’ve heard me say that in November, December and January, and it is still fragile. In the home stretch, anything can happen. We have to be humble. We’ve got to know that there are a lot of holes we have to fill. Every game has a high value attached to it.”

Nothing could be closer to the truth.

The Wizards have won three straight games, two at the end of a grueling five-game, seven-night Western Conference road trip.

“There’s no way you can take any game for granted now,” guard Larry Hughes said after scoring 26 points against the Hawks.

The league leader in steals (2.94), Hughes had four against the Hawks to bring his total to 21 over the last five games. After the Wizards came close to blowing the game against Atlanta, Hughes said the key is not to let anybody steal any games the rest of the season.

“You can’t overlook anyone, not now,” Hughes said. “We were coming off a road trip, but that’s no excuse. The good thing is, we won. We got the ‘W.’ We’ve had some success all year long.”

Most of those wins were compiled when the Wizards had fresher legs. They also came when they had more healthy bodies, most notably All-Star forward Antawn Jamison (now out with knee tendinitis) and starting center Brendan Haywood.

“We’ve been playing every other day, so we don’t have our legs,” said guard Gilbert Arenas shortly after scoring a game-high 36 points to send Atlanta to its 10th straight loss. “From now until the end of the season, each game is going to be hard.”

However, other teams are winning in spite of the bumps and bruises they’ve picked up during the season.

The Chicago Bulls are the prime example. A half-game behind the Wizards, the fifth-place Bulls (40-31) have won a season-high eight straight games after defeating sixth-place Cleveland (37-33) last night.

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