The Washington Wizards and Charlotte Bobcats have been very good since the All-Star break, as long as they’re not facing one of the league’s best teams.
Neither the Wizards nor the Bobcats are considered among the NBA elite, but both are looking to bolster their playoff position in the Eastern Conference and they’ll play Wednesday night in the first of three meetings over the next four weeks.
Washington (33-30) has won eight of 10 with the losses coming to Memphis, among the league’s top teams record-wise over the past two months, and at Miami on Monday. Coach Randy Wittman wasn’t too disappointed by his team’s 99-90 loss to the reigning champions.
"I’m proud of our guys," he said. "They kept battling, working. We didn’t shoot it the way we’re capable of. We got some good looks. We shared the ball. We attacked the whole game."
Charlotte has won three of four, with the lone loss coming at Memphis, and its only other defeats in 11 games since the break came on a three-game trip through San Antonio, Oklahoma City and Miami.
The Bobcats (30-34) are seventh in the East, three games back of Brooklyn, 3 1/2 behind fifth-place Washington and comfortably clear of the East’s No. 9 seed.
"I don’t even think about that. I just think about trying to get in," coach Steve Clifford said of the playoff seeding. "I don’t think you ever worry about who you play or what place you get in. We’re just trying to get in (the playoffs)."
Having Gerald Henderson back may help the Bobcats end a four-game skid on the road. He’s missed the last five games because of a strained right calf but is expected to return for the trip to Washington, with Clifford saying Henderson would be in the starting lineup if he’s cleared to play.
"I feel good," said Henderson, third on the team with 14.6 points per game. "It’s tough having to be out in that stretch. But I wanted to get myself back to 100 percent and not have that calf bother me the rest of the season.
"I feel good and I’m ready to go."
Henderson had a game-high 27 points in these teams’ only meeting, but Washington won 97-83 in Charlotte on Jan. 7.
John Wall shot 5 for 16 but had 17 points, and Bradley Beal led five Wizards in double figures with 21.
Beal has been leading the offensive attack over the last four games, averaging 21.0 points. Wall has struggled with his shot, getting held below double figures in back-to-back games for the first time this season while going 6 for 22 from the field.
Reserve Martell Webster has stepped up to average 16.0 points on 10-of-16 shooting in those two games, and recent signee Drew Gooden has reached double figures in three straight.
"Everybody is stepping up and knows their role," Beal said. "I think that’s the best thing about this team is that everyone knows what they’re supposed to do and when they’re supposed to do it, and we do it together, collectively.
"Moving forward, we just have to continue to do that."