Despite a rough first half of the season on and off the court, the Washington Wizards are optimistic they can turn things around no matter who's on the court.
Looking to avoid a third straight loss, the lowly Wizards have a chance to get started down that path Sunday while trying to extend the Los Angeles Clippers' road losing streak to nine games.
Though Washington (14-28) began the second half with a 112-88 loss to Miami, the Wizards are just six games out of the eighth and final playoff spot despite having the second-worst record in the mediocre Eastern Conference.
Their overall poor play and the lingering distraction of star Gilbert Arenas' indefinite suspension for bringing guns into the locker room still hasn't been enough for the Wizards to pack it in.
"You've got to continue to believe in yourself and your teammates," center Brendan Haywood said. I believe in those guys in that locker room, and we believe that we can get it done."
In order for the Wizards to make a run with or without Arenas (22.6 points per game, 7.2 assists per game), they can't afford many more poor efforts like Friday.
Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler were held to a combined 22 points and seven rebounds as Washington shot 39.5 percent and was outrebounded 46-35 by the Heat. The Wizards are 3-7 since Arenas was suspended and 2-2 on a season-high eight-game homestand.
"They came out aggressive, knocked us in the mouth and we just stood there and took it," Jamison said after the Heat shot 57.0 percent.
The Wizards continue to lean on Jamison, who's averaging 21.8 points on the season, but has totaled 15 on 6-of-24 shooting in his last two contests. Jamison had 32 points and 11 rebounds in a 97-95 loss at Los Angeles on Dec. 14, and is averaging 28.2 and 10.7 boards in his last six games against Los Angeles.
Though the Wizards have dropped their last two in the series, they've won three in a row and seven of eight at home over the Clippers (19-23).
Los Angeles is 5-14 on the road and hasn't won away from the Staples Center since beating Philadelphia 112-107 in overtime Dec. 19. The Clippers, who opened a season-high eight-game trip with a 105-85 loss at Denver on Thursday, are averaging 93.1 points while giving up 110.1 during their eight-game road skid.
Playing without starting guard Eric Gordon (sprained left big toe), Craig Smith scored 21 points off the bench and Chris Kaman added 18 as the Clippers shot 37.8 percent against the Nuggets.
Considered day-to-day, Gordon is averaging 17.0 points this season and 26.7 on 57.4 percent shooting in three career games against Washington.
"We needed to find someone to score, another scorer and another threat that stretches the defense," said Clippers guard Baron Davis, who's failed to score at least 10 points in three of four games. "It seems like as a team, whenever we are ready to make a push, somebody gets hurt."
The Clippers announced Friday that reserve guard Sebastian Telfair is out four to six weeks with a groin injury.