Washington Wizards forward Antawn Jamison, who has had 20 or more points and at least 12 rebounds in each of his last five games, summarized the feelings of many of his teammates when he tried to explain his team's inconsistent play this season.
"How can you be focused enough, determined enough to beat teams that went to the [NBA] Finals and we can't do it against teams that are struggling?" Jamison said. "We just have to be focused and determined to do the things we did [Friday night in a win over Detroit]. It's unexplainable how we can't find a way to get it done sometimes."
The Wizards (6-7) opened the season 5-1, along the way crushing the Seattle SuperSonics and defending champion San Antonio Spurs on the same weekend. They then lost five in a row, snapped that losing streak with a win over the Eastern Conference champion Pistons in Detroit on Friday and followed that with Saturday's 100-82 loss to the Charlotte Bobcats.
Among the teams that figure to be jostling for playoff position come April, the Wizards are not alone in their up-and-down ways. Look no further than Friday night's results.
The Indiana Pacers were fresh off a 98-76 win over the red-hot Cleveland Cavaliers Thanksgiving night when they hosted the struggling Atlanta Hawks. Instead of carrying the momentum created by the victory over the Cavaliers, the Pacers were beaten at home by the Hawks, 87-85. Also on Friday, the same day many NBA fans read a Sports Illustrated article raving about the play of point guard T.J. Ford and the Milwaukee Bucks, Ford was outplayed by the previously struggling Marko Jaric in a 99-91 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
So far, the only team that has created any kind of separation in the East is the Pistons, who are a league-best 10-2 after beating Milwaukee on Saturday night.
"Look around the league," Wizards Coach Eddie Jordan said prior to Saturday night's loss in Charlotte. "You're seeing all kinds of crazy things happening. That's just the NBA right now."
Jamison Sets the Tone
Jamison is one Wizard who has played consistently. The wiry forward with the unorthodox game posted a 25-point, 16-rebound performance in the loss at Orlando on Wednesday night and really came up big with a 22-point, 20-rebound game in the double-overtime win at Detroit on Friday night.
Jamison missed some open looks in Saturday's loss at Charlotte, hitting 8 of 22 shots from the field, but finished with 20 points and 12 rebounds, giving him five consecutive double-doubles.
Prior to Saturday night's game, Jamison was one of only five players in the league ranked in the top 20 in both points and rebounds per game. The others were Los Angeles Clippers forward Elton Brand, Timberwolves forward Kevin Garnett, Spurs forward Tim Duncan and Pacers forward Jermaine O'Neal. Jamison, who is averaging 21.2 points and 11.2 rebounds, ranked 21st in scoring and sixth in rebounding heading into Sunday's games. . . .
In the four games since he moved into the starting lineup, guard Jarvis Hayes is shooting 38.2 percent from the field. The player Hayes replaced, Antonio Daniels, also has struggled. Daniels is shooting 34.8 percent this season and has made 2 of 17 three-point attempts. . . . Following Wednesday night's game at MCI Center against the Portland Trail Blazers, the Wizards will play six straight games against Eastern Conference opponents.