Now, the Wizards hope the All-Star forward can help them move above. 500 by winning three straight games for the first time in more than two months when they host the last-place Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday night.
Butler celebrated his 28th birthday Thursday by scoring 19 points and pulling down six rebounds to help the Wizards (32-32) to a 101-99 win over Cleveland as LeBron James missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer. The performance came after Butler, the team leader with 21.4 points per game, missed 16 consecutive games and 19 of 21 -- plus the All-Star game -- due to a hip injury.
"That was big for us," said Wizards guard Antonio Daniels, who had 10 points and seven assists. "To see him pumping the crowd up, you could see he's back to being who he is."
Butler now gets a chance to help Washington, the sixth-place team in the Eastern Conference, win three straight for the first time since Jan. 11-14. The Wizards haven't been above .500 since they dropped to 24-23 after a 101-96 loss at Philadelphia on Feb. 5 -- Butler's last game prior to Thursday.
The Wizards won the first of two matchups this season with the Clippers (21-43) on Feb. 13, getting 29 points and nine rebounds from Antawn Jamison in a 91-89 victory. Washington has won five of the last six meetings against the Clippers at the Verizon Center, including a 116-105 win behind Butler's 27 points on Jan. 5, 2007.
Jamison, who had 17 points and 10 rebounds against the Cavaliers, is averaging 25.5 points and 7.3 boards in the last four games against Los Angeles. The forward is second on the team with 21.3 points and the leader with 10.3 rebounds per game.
The Clippers, who are at the bottom of the Pacific Division, have lost 10 of their last 12 after falling 117-93 at Atlanta on Friday, dropping to 1-2 on their five-game road trip. They hope to have center Chris Kaman, the NBA's third-leading rebounder (13.1) and shot blocker (2.9), back he missed his third straight game with a lower back injury.
"Unfortunately, we don't really have a low-post game to speak of," Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said. "It's tough when you don't have that anchor."
Corey Maggette, the Clippers' leader with 22.0 points per game, is looking to rebound from a subpar performance on Friday. He shot 4-of-11 from the field and finished with 14 points against the Hawks after averaging 26.0 points on 51.7 percent shooting in his previous eight road games.
The swingman posted 20 points in the last matchup against Washington.
Al Thornton put up 24 points and grabbed nine rebounds in that contest. The rookie forward is coming off another solid performance, scoring 18 points with five rebounds on Friday. He's averaging 18.8 points and 6.8 boards over the last four games, increasing his season averages to 12.0 and 4.2, respectively.