- The Washington Times - Friday, December 8, 2006

PHILADELPHIA — It is easy to focus on the negatives surrounding the Washington Wizards, such as their eight-game road losing streak to start the season — something that suggests the team is not focused enough to win road games it is supposed to win.

But coach Eddie Jordan and his team are focused on something different.

“We’re turning the corner,” Jordan said. “It could be a wide, long corner, but we’re turning it.”

Jordan might be right.

The Wizards (8-10) enter tonight’s game at Philadelphia (5-12) with a chance at a season-high three-game winning streak. Winners of four of their last five games, including the season’s first road victory (Wednesday at New York) and a 106-97 win over Dallas that ended the Mavericks’ 12-game winning streak, the Wizards are talking — and recently playing — like the team they hoped to be.

After Monday’s surprising win against the Mavericks, captain Antawn Jamison made sure his teammates put that victory behind them to focus on Wednesday’s game in New York — a game had they lost would have meant an 0-9 road record, the worst start to a road season in the NBA since Portland’s in 2003.

Standing in the Verizon Center locker room, Jamison quickly proclaimed Wednesday would be “the biggest game of our season.”

Jamison backed up his words with his best offensive game of the season: a season-high 33 points on 12-for-18 shooting, including 6-for-8 from 3-point range in a 113-102 victory. He added two blocks for good measure, bringing his season total to 16 — four more than he had all last season.

“You can’t just win at home and lose on the road,” said Jamison, admitting the road troubles had begun to embed themselves in players’ minds. “For us to be successful and make some noise, we have to start winning some games on the road.”

In recent days, the Wizards have come out of practices at Verizon Center talking about how exhilarating the workout was, something that hardly ever happens in the NBA. While negativity has swirled around the Wizards because of their road problems, Jordan has continued to speak positively about his team.

Winning against Dallas was a breakthrough, no doubt, and perhaps even a pogo stick in terms of the bounce it could have in the team’s short-term future.

“We thought the performance against Dallas was complete because of the way we approached it, the way we went into it and the way we encouraged ourselves, our behavior throughout the game,” Jordan said. “We pretty much said, ‘This is the way we need to behave, to manage the game and to give ourselves a chance.’ And that’s where we are.”

Where they are today is in Philadelphia, whose Sixers have lost 12 of their last 14 games — including five in a row — and don’t shoot well (44.5 percent) while giving up 101.6 points a game.

Despite this, they are just two games out of first place in the Atlantic Division, where the Nets are 7-10.

“It’s another big game for us,” Jamison said. “No one is going to just roll over for you.”

Note — The Wizards and the Salvation Army will collect brand new toys for the “Wizards in Toyland Drive” when they face Houston on Saturday. The toys will be donated to various charities. Those donating a toy will receive a fee voucher to attend a future Wizards game.

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