Wizards overcoming issues that doomed them early

One step at a time, the Wizards are overcoming the bugaboos that have haunted them all season.

On Monday they earned their fifth road victory of the season in a bruising and brutal 90-84 win at Toronto. It was also Washington's first win against a team with a losing record after the previous seven had come against teams on the positive side of .500 and currently in playoff position.

On Wednesday they'll get a chance to prove they can do it at home when they host the Detroit Pistons (22-37), who have already beaten Washington three times this year. The Wizards (18-37) have won three in a row of their own and play seven of their next 10 games at Verizon Center before spending much of the last month of the season on the road.

Up next
Pistons at Wizards
When » Wednesday, 7 p.m.
Where » Verizon Center

"We've got a favorable schedule, and we've got to take advantage of it," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said just after the All-Star break. "If we're going to make some noise, we've got to be able to do that this first 14 games [with 10 at home], and then it kind of leaves you with 17 games left [11 on the road]. You just see your position and what you're fighting for and where you're at."

That's the closest Wittman has come all year to admitting that his team is playing for more than just its own pride. The Wizards are 14-9 since Jan. 7, and they've become quite adept at the role of spoiler, going 11-4 against teams with winning records. That makes them 3-5 against teams with losing numbers.

"I said this at the beginning of the year, we play to the level of our competition," Wizards guard A.J. Price said. "Sometimes it hurts us. Sometimes it helps us. But we feel like we're a good team. We feel our record is not indicative of what type of team we have here. Our record is pretty bad, but we haven't had our full team, and since we have had our full team, we've been playing pretty well."

While John Wall's presence has been crucial to the Wizards' resurgence, in the last few games the Wizards have figured out to win when he hasn't been at his best. Over the last five games, Wall is shooting 30 percent. Against the Raptors, Wall had 10 points, seven assists and one turnover, but was 3-for-11 from the field. He spent only 32 seconds more on the court than Price, who had 12 points on 5-for-7 shooting with three assists and four turnovers.

Monday's victory moved the Wizards up to 12th place in the Eastern Conference and within 8? games of the eighth-place Bucks (26-28) heading into Milwaukee's game at Dallas on Tuesday. Both teams' remaining schedules are very balanced with road and home games against playoff teams and non-playoff teams.

"We've got to worry about ourselves," Wizards forward Trevor Ariza said after Washington's 105-103 win over Houston on Saturday. "That's what we've taken pride in these last few games, just worrying about what we need to do and not really falling in to the trap of other teams. When we focus on ourselves we do a pretty good job."