The Wizards aren't out of the woods just yet because even though they lead the Charlotte Bobcats by one game for the No. 6 seed in the East, the Miami Heat are here Monday. And the Heat, pardon the pun, are in a dead heat with the Indiana Pacers for the No. 1 seed.
Still, on the heels of consecutive home losses to the Chicago Bulls and Bobcats last week in which the Wizards briefly lost the No. 6 spot, they've rebounded to win games vs. the Orlando Magic and Milwaukee Bucks over the weekend. Granted, they only did what they were supposed to do. But there's no panic button. The ship has been steadied.
"The media and the fans start panicking," Wizards point guard John Wall said after tallying 15 points and eight assists against just two turnovers in Saturday's 104-91 blowout of Milwaukee. "We're basketball players. Chicago came out and they let us know what a playoff game is like. They came out here with a vengeance to let us know how it's going to be and leave a statement. We beat them the first two times.
"Charlotte, they came out and did the same thing. First quarter, we came out sluggish and they came out to leave a statement. That's what hurt us. We've stuck with each other. We're a team. We've been here through tough times. We know the way we got to play to win games and the way we play when we lose games."
Coach Randy Wittman rested Nene on Saturday, opting to have him fresh for Miami.
"We met in here early. Kind of walked through. He loosened up and did some stuff," Wittman said. "He was a little stiff. It did not make any sense to throw him out there. We erred on being cautious and giving him another day and (Sunday) so he will be ready on Monday."
Trevor Ariza, who appears fully recovered from the flu, only played 29 minutes but had 13 points and made two three-pointers after going three consecutive games without one. It was the second game in a row that he played fewer than 30 minutes.
Al Harrington has been dealing with right knee issues all season but is looking sharper after leading the reserves with 12 points in 19 minutes.
"I'm close to it. Really close to it," Harrington said when asked if he was 100% yet. "I'm feeling a lot better. I'm feeling like I can do a lot more out there, not only offensively but defensively also. So far, so good."
The flu that had drained Ariza also has impacted the coaching staff. Assistant Pat Sullivan wasn't at Saturday's game. Don Zierdan was on the bench but was under the weather. Ariza didn't need to play in the fourth quarter.
"Not having to put him back in there was probably good. We got a little bug going around a little bit that we need to get out of here," Wittman said, before adding his punchline. "Would like to see you guys with it rather than our players."