- The Washington Times - Monday, April 3, 2006

The Washington Wizards understand their solid road trip was a missed opportunity for a sensational one.

Yes, they finished the trip 3-3. And yes, they didn’t lose any ground in the Eastern Conference playoff race. But the Wizards came oh-so-close to finishing it that much better.

The Wizards (37-35) began the trip with a quality win in Utah. And after an ugly loss against the playoff-bound Los Angeles Clippers, they notched back-to-back wins at Golden State and Sacramento. Washington then fell short at Houston when Antawn Jamison missed a 3-pointer in the final seconds.

In the final game of the trip, the Wizards scored 39 points in the third quarter against San Antonio — the most any team has scored against the defending champions in a quarter this year. They lost the game, but it’s showed why the Wizards — once thought out of the playoff race — seem headed to the postseason for the second straight year.

Which is exactly why Wizards coach Eddie Jordan does not want his team to get too comfortable.

Tonight, they play host to the abomination of a basketball team that is the New York Knicks (19-53), and then it’s right back on the road for two more games.

“This road trip isn’t over,” Jordan said. “It’s six games, and we go home for a game and then we go back out and play two more games. So it’s really a nine-game road trip. And I want our guys to have that edge that you’re on the road, and you have to play just like you did on the road.”

If they do, then beating the Knicks at Verizon Center today shouldn’t present much of a problem. There are just 10 games left in the season and the Knicks are more of a sideshow than a basketball team.

Awful on the court, the most notable things to happen involving the Knicks are the sexual harassment charges leveled against president Isiah Thomas and the spat between coach Larry Brown and Stephon Marbury, the latest in a long line of overrated New York City point guards.

Regardless, the Wizards hope to see backup center Brendan Haywood back in the lineup today. Haywood has missed the last three games with lower back spasms. Haywood said yesterday he could have played Saturday had it been absolutely necessary.

Jordan said yesterday Haywood would be a game-time decision tonight against the Knicks.

Asked whether he is keeping his eyes on the playoff race — the Wizards have a half-game lead over sixth-place Milwaukee — Jordan said he is concerned with only the Wizards’ next opponent.

“We’re not really concerned about who’s in front of us or who’s behind us,” Jordan said. “We know we are in fifth, and we’d like to hold on to it.”

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