- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 13, 2007

It sounds as if the fan base is more concerned with the mental stability of coach Eddie Jordan’s Washington Wizards than, say, Jordan is.

After all, Jordan had the best seat in the house — or worst, depending how you look at it — for the Wizards’ dual buzzer-beating, heart-breaking losses to New York on Friday and at Miami on Sunday.

But Jordan sounds confident there won’t be any lingering malaise for the Wizards tonight when they play at fast-fading Indiana.

“I don’t think so. I really don’t,” Jordan said Monday. “I look at it as we lost two games that could have gone either way. Unfortunately, they didn’t go our way. But we fought hard, and we’re going to come back and fight again.”

Unfortunately for the Wizards (34-28), winners of just seven of their last 18 games, they might have to fight for one night or more without the services of Caron Butler.

The forward missed his second practice yesterday with stiffness in his left knee and is listed as a game-time decision for today’s game at Indiana.

While the Southeast Division-leading Wizards recently have had their problems, there are teams like the Pacers that are in far worse condition as the regular season dwindles.

The Pacers (29-33) had lost nine straight games entering last night’s game with Minnesota but still were seventh in the Eastern Conference.

The Pacers’ main problem is a familiar one to the Wizards: They don’t play much defense.

Through the first 46 games of the season, Indiana ranked among the top five teams in the league in points allowed (96.1). However, going into last night’s game, the Pacers had won just four of their last 16 games, giving up 103.2 points a game in those 12 losses.

What could bode favorably for the Wizards tonight is that the Pacers will be without leading scorer Jermaine O’Neal, who is out with a sprained left knee.

Of course, the Wizards haven’t fared well recently against short-handed opponents. In the last week, they have lost 93-92 to lowly Atlanta, which was missing three starters. More recently, New York and Miami had success against the Wizards despite playing without Quentin Richardson and Dwyane Wade, respectively.

Jordan knows the Wizards need to start playing better, sooner rather than later. Tonight’s game is the second of a stretch of games that will see the Wizards play seven of eight on the road, including a string of five in seven nights against Western Conference teams.

And the seriousness of it all is not lost on Jordan.

“No one has made the playoffs,” Jordan said. “I’m just being blunt. For us, that’s step one: You have to get in. It’s not about holding on. We’re still fighting to get in, and that’s how we look at it. We’ve go to get motivated to get in just like New York is motivated to get in, just like [Miami] is motivated to get first place. We have to motivate ourselves. The season is getting short.”

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