Posted: 4/12/2008 7:00:34 AM
A victory Friday night would have opened the door for the Wizards to possibly overtake the Cavaliers and earn home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Now, the Wizards must scrap to avoid dropping as far as seventh, a fate that would set up a distasteful first-round matchup with the Pistons, who sent a message with a physically dominant performance Friday night.
On Saturday night, the Wizards face a crucial game against the 76ers, who lead the season series between the teams 2-1. A win would give the Wizards a potentially crucial tiebreaker advantage based on a superior division record.
The Wizards also can't afford to have a beat-up team, but both Caron Butler and starting shooting guard DeShawn Stevenson were injured during Friday's loss.
Butler limped off the court at halftime after banging his right knee against Detroit rookie Rodney Stuckey. He returned for the start of the third period but didn't move well and said the knee felt "horrible" after the game.
Stevenson has been bothered by a bruised tailbone since Wednesday's win over Boston. He made his 247th straight start Friday night but went down hard on a foul by Maxiell in the second period and left for good when his back stiffened up in the third quarter.
Stevenson said he would see how he feels before Saturday night's game against Philadelphia. Arenas played his fourth game since returning from a left knee injury but was mostly a non-factor as Pistons guard Chauncey Billups and others swarmed him with tight man-to-man defense each time he touched the ball.
It would be an upset if Bobcats forward Gerald Wallace plays another minute this season.
He missed his second straight game with a groin strain that is growing worse by the day. Wallace said he's now feeling pain in his abdominal muscles and is leaning toward shutting it down for the final handful of games.
An unknown illness hit the Pacers so hard the past two days that O'Brien was forced to cancel the team's shootaround Friday morning.
As many as seven players and two assistant coaches were sick Thursday and Friday.
"We canceled shootaround because we would have only had five guys," O'Brien said. "It's amazing what some Imodium will do. The proper medicine will take care of most things."
Though several players said they still weren't feeling well before the game, nobody sat out because of the illness.
"It couldn't have been that bad. I was able to play 40 minutes," said Mike Dunleavy, one of those afflicted. "Over a course of a long season, you're going to have some guys getting sick and not feeling well. I was just kind of bummed that of all games to get sick, it's one coming down the stretch. Hopefully everybody will get healthy soon."