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Butler, Wizards headed back to playoffs

Apr 5, 2008 - 5:26 AM By Tim Hipps PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

WASHINGTON (Ticker) - Caron Butler had 29 points and five assists to lead the Washington Wizards to their fourth consecutive playoff berth with a 109-95 victory over the Miami Heat on Friday night.

The franchise last made four straight playoff appearances as part of a five-year run from 1983-88 as the Washington Bullets, who featured the likes of Jeff Ruland, Gus Williams, Leonard "Truck" Robinson, Moses Malone and Bernard King.

The Wizards also completed a four-game season-series sweep of the Heat for the first time since 1988-89, Miami's inaugural season in the league.

"We've been though a lot of adversity this year," Butler said. "We lost Gilbert (Arenas) early and have had a lot of doubters since. We've been coming out and playing at a high level night in and night out. Clinching a playoff spot is real rewarding but, at the same time, it is what is expected from us."

Two-time All-Star forward Antawn Jamison missed the game with a sprained right shoulder sustained in the waning seconds of Washington's 110-109 loss to Milwaukee on Wednesday night.

That left guard DeShawn Stevenson as the lone remaining player who has started every game this season for the Wizards. He scored all of his 12 points in the first quarter against the undermanned Heat, who competed with only nine players.

"As long as we are healthy, we can beat anyone," Butler said. "We need to get Antawn back out there. It is ironic that once we get everyone healthy, someone else goes down. Once we get all of our core players back out there, we'll be real lethal. We can spread the floor and cause a lot of damage."

Miami nailed a franchise-record 18 3-pointers, capped by Ricky Davis' shot from the arc with 3:03 remaining.

Davis, who shot 11-of-16 from the floor, including a career-best 9-of-12 from behind the arc, led the Heat with a season-high 33 points and eight assists.

"It felt great," Davis said. "Me, (Chris) Quinn and Daequan (Cook) were shooting the ball pretty good. I think after a while, we were just trying to get behind the three and let it go.

"We do pretty good when we're shooting that ball real good. A lot of it comes from just getting the ball in a rhythm and guys moving the ball and getting guys open shots."

Davis said it may have been the best 3-point shooting night of his career.

"I've shot it, but I don't know about that good," said Davis, whose previous high was seven 3-pointers in a game. "I just felt great tonight. I, more or less, wasn't even seeing a defender, really. I was just kind of shooting it and letting it go - feeling good."

Quinn, who scored 14 points in the third quarter, matched his career high with 24 points for Miami, which has lost six in a row.

"We were able to get some good looks," Quinn said. "We've got a few guys that can shoot the ball - myself, Daequan, Ricky - we were able to get some good looks and knock them down.

"We obviously don't have our full team, so us out there that are playing are just trying to compete and play as hard as possible and do what we can do."

Brendan Haywood had 14 points and eight rebounds and reserve forward Andray Blatche added 15 and five in 26 minutes for Washington.

Arenas, in his second game back after missing 66 contests recovering from left knee surgery, added 13 points, eight assists and five rebounds in 21 minutes.

"Gilbert is coming off the bench and playing well," said Wizards assistant coach Mike O'Koren, who addressed the media after the game for coach Eddie Jordan, who was bothered by a sinus infection. "We are watching Gilbert's minutes. He is in a 20-25 minute range and we are trying to stay within that.

"We were very proud of him and the way he distributed the basketball, getting six or seven guys in double figures."

O'Koren was equally impressed that Jordan coached the team from the bench.

"Eddie, as the head coach, has kept this team organized," O'Koren said. "He has kept this team with a tremendous work ethic. That's a part of toughness. He has been ill and had a fever, and he called me this morning and said he didn't think he would be here tonight.

"For him to get here, shows toughness. Making the playoffs for the fourth straight year was a tremendous goal for us. It all starts with Eddie."

Stevenson scored six points and Blatche added four as the Wizards closed the first quarter with a 12-4 run. Washington led 29-23 after one and was never seriously threatened thereafter.

"When I first got here just making the playoffs gave the fans something to cheer about," Haywood said. "We have made it four years in a row and now they want to see us make a run deep in the playoffs. Being a part of the playoffs isn't good enough now. We have to do something when we get there."

Heat reserve forward Alexander Johnson was taken from Verizon Center on a stretcher to George Washington University Hospital for evaluation after the game.

Johnson was accompanied to the hospital by Heat trainer Ron Culp and met there later by Wizards team physician Marc Connell. By midnight, Johnson had been treated and released and was on his way to the airport to fly with the team back to Miami.

Johnson, a 6-foot-9, second-year NBA forward from Florida State, banged heads with someone and left the game with nine minutes remaining after scoring nine points and grabbing four rebounds. He was scrapping on the floor for a loose ball with Arenas.

"I just saw him collide and go down," Quinn said. "When I went to help him get up, he wasn't in any shape to get up fast. His eyes were rolled back in his head, and it was a scary moment."

Culp tended to Johnson for about three minutes while he was down on the court.

"He was going for the rebound it looked like," Heat guard Ricky Davis said. "I'm not sure who he ran into. It's just another one of our soldiers down."

Riley said Johnson was disoriented in the locker room and team officials sent him to the hospital for evaluation.

"We just hope that he's OK," Riley said. "He got hit in the temple and he's just not responding, at all.

"We just wanted to take him because we just don't know what it is. They're concerned. They want to take him and get him cat-scanned, so we're just wishing him the best. This God-forsaken season has got to be over with."

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