The Washington Wizards have a chance to end their lengthy playoff drought while putting a little more distance on the team that’s one spot behind them in the Eastern Conference.
The Wizards will try to wrap up their first trip to the postseason since 2008 and send the slumping Charlotte Bobcats to another loss Monday night.
Washington’s six-year playoff absence is currently the third-longest drought in the league behind Minnesota’s soon-to-be 11 years and Sacramento’s soon-to-be nine years. The Wizards, though, can end that with a win over Charlotte or a New York loss in Utah later Monday evening.
"We’re ready. We’re going to definitely get that win, that’s for sure," forward Al Harrington said. "We’re trying to build momentum going into the playoffs. We’re not trying to limp in there or barely make it."
Washington (38-35) has helped its cause by winning back-to-back games after losing four of five and edged Atlanta 101-97 in their latest one Saturday. John Wall led six Wizards players in double figures with 25 points, but third-leading scorer Trevor Ariza suffered a groin injury in the third quarter.
Washington was playing at the Verizon Center after the NHL’s Capitals hosted Boston earlier in the day and the transition from ice to hardwood left the floor slippery at times.
Ariza’s status is unclear for this game as the sixth-place Wizards attempt to pad a three-game cushion over the Bobcats (35-38) in the East. Washington is 1 1/2 games behind fifth-place Brooklyn entering Monday’s play and three back of Chicago in the race for home-court advantage in the opening round of the playoffs.
Charlotte, meanwhile, has a 4 1/2-game lead over ninth-place New York and one game in hand on the Knicks in its drive for the second postseason berth in franchise history. The Bobcats made that lone appearance in 2010 and were swept by Orlando.
They’re hardly surging toward the playoffs, having dropped four of six. Charlotte won 116-111 in overtime against Brooklyn on Wednesday but was edged 110-105 in OT at last-place Orlando on Friday.
The Bobcats appeared ready to pull out a victory despite blowing their double-digit lead from late in the third quarter but allowed Arron Afflalo to hit a tying 3-pointer with 7.6 seconds left in regulation.
"All you’ve got to do is do what we’re supposed to do right there and the game ends. That was it," said coach Steve Clifford, whose team was also outscored 11-4 in the final 2 1/2 minutes of overtime. "We have to make one play that you make time after time and we didn’t make the play."
The Bobcats have won four of six against Washington but have split their two games in this season’s series.
The Wizards ended a two-game skid in Charlotte with a 97-83 victory Jan. 7 and held Bobcats leading scorer Al Jefferson to a season-low six points, later matched against Memphis on Feb. 22. Jefferson, averaging 21.5 points, had a team-leading 26 on 13-of-20 shooting and 10 rebounds in a 98-85 victory in Washington on March 12.
Gerald Henderson has scored 27 points in each of the last two home games against the Wizards while Wall, a native of Raleigh, N.C., is averaging 21.7 points in his past three matchups with Charlotte.