- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 8, 2005

One of the things Washington Wizards coach Eddie Jordan keeps stressing to his players is not to dwell on the highs and lows — particularly the lows — of an 82-game season.

For the most part, it has worked, and the Wizards are off to their best start in 20 years (18-13). A year ago after 31 games, their record was 9-24 with four losing streaks of at least four games.

Despite this turnaround, two ugly losses haunt the Wizards: a 105-74 affair at Cleveland and a 109-74 trouncing by Minnesota the day after Christmas.

Each was the first of back-to-back games for the Wizards. After the defeat at Cleveland, they lost at home the next day to Dallas 122-113. But after the Minnesota loss — their largest since January 2002 — the Wizards bounced back to rout Charlotte by 19 points.

After the Minnesota loss, Antawn Jamison challenged his teammates, saying he “didn’t recognize” the team that had just been trounced and adding that Washington had been “embarrassed.” So the Wizards (18-13), coming off an impressive 107-96 whipping of Seattle in their first nationally televised game in almost two years, will go into tonight’s game against the Timberwolves at MCI Center looking for a measure of revenge.

Jordan doesn’t see any problem getting his troops up for the Timberwolves, who had lost four straight until last night’s home victory over Philadelphia. At 17-14, the Wolves are almost as big a disappointment as the Wizards are a surprise.

Point guard Gilbert Arenas said he and his teammates remember how they felt after the game in Minnesota.

“It wasn’t even close,” Arenas said. “Now [the Wolves] are coming to the end of a road trip, just like Seattle was when we beat them. We don’t want them to get rejuvenated against us.”

Jamison conceded yesterday his harsh words after the rout in Minnesota were to motivate himself as well as his teammates. Since that loss, the Wizards are 3-2.

“I was embarrassed that game,” Jamison repeated. “They outplayed us; our energy level was down. We played like we were scared a little bit. The key is that we didn’t stay down too long. We didn’t get too far down, and now we’re playing well again. That’s the sign of a good team.”

Note — Jordan said backup center Etan Thomas had another solid practice and should be ready to make his first appearance of the season Wednesday against Portland. Thomas has missed the entire season with a strained abdomen.

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