- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 19, 2006

At this point in the season — a place all teams jockeying for playoff position usually reach — the Washington Wizards have to put past games, big wins, or big losses, behind them.

Washington (33-31) knows it beat league-leading Detroit twice, as well as streaking Phoenix and defending champion San Antonio.

But the Wizards have put these games in the past, just as they put their latest loss — at home to Dallas on Friday — almost instantly.

“You can’t hold on to anything that’s already happened in this league — you just can’t,” Wizards forward Caron Butler said. “We lost to a very good Dallas team that has a lot of weapons. Now it’s time to look ahead at Chicago (29-37) and New Jersey, try to get these games and then we’ve got a tough road trip sitting there for us.”

The Wizards play host to a Chicago team today that hasn’t given up hope of reaching the playoffs. And if the playoffs ended today, Tuesday’s opponent, New Jersey, would play the Wizards with homecourt advantage in the first round.

“We’re not in yet,” Gilbert Arenas said. “We are still fighting to get in, every night.”

Whatever magic the Bulls had last season — when they reached the playoffs as the fourth seed and ultimately lost to the Wizards in six games — appears to be gone.

Their loss to the Heat at home yesterday — while wearing putrid green uniforms for St. Patrick’s Day — dropped them 2 games behind Philadelphia for the final spot in the Eastern Conference.

While the Bulls don’t appear to be headed to the playoffs this season unless they start stringing together wins in bunches, they have had the Wizards’ number this season, handing them some embarrassing losses in the process.

In the teams’ first meeting this season — a 118-111 Chicago victory here Dec. 10 — the Bulls outscored the Wizards 16-0 down the stretch and overcame a 14-0 fourth-quarter deficit.

The Bulls dealt the Wizards another ugly defeat when they played in Chicago Jan. 27, holding them to a season-low 79 points.

“At this point you have to take each game for what it’s worth, and right now that’s a lot,” the Wizards’ Michael Ruffin said.

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