Only two teams have beaten the Brooklyn Nets since Feb. 27, and one was the Wizards who pulled out a 101-94 victory at Verizon Center. Going into this week, however, both teams are heading in different directions as Brooklyn has the No. 5 seed and have the No. 3 seed in striking distance.
So much has been made of the Wizards (36-34) having the most favorable schedule based on winning percentage after the All-Star break, but the Nets (37-31) have won 11 of their last 13 games. They have the best record in the East since Jan. 1 at 27-10 and the rest of March shapes up for them like this: at the New Orleans Pelicans tonight, at the Charlotte Bobcats on Wednesday, vs. Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday and Sunday vs. Minnesota Timberwolves.
The Wizards return to D.C. after a disastrous road trip that included an overtime loss to the lowly Sacramento Kings and a three-point loss at the injury-riddled Denver Nuggets. On tap this week are home games vs. the Phoenix Suns, Indiana Pacers, Atlanta Hawks and at Charlotte Bobcats.
The Nets won at the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday, coming from behind to force overtime. Joe Johnson, who had 22 points, made the tying shot in regulation. They're 6-2 in games decided by three points or less.
"We love giving the ball to Joe. Joe loves having the ball. ... Joe has been doing that for us all season. That's why he's an All-Star and one of the best at what he does," Nets coach Jason Kidd said after Sunday's win.
The Wizards don't have that luxury in the clutch. While they're still waiting for Nene's return and have lost five of their last eight games, the Nets have persevered without Brook Lopez (foot) since his season ended, without Kevin Garnett (back) since Feb. 27 and Paul Pierce being hit-or-miss with only two games of more than 20 points since the All-Star break.
The Wizards won all three games vs. the Nets this season and would win any tie-breakers, but they have to hold serve this week if they hope to make up lost ground.