The more the injuries pile up for the Washington Wizards, the better the team seems to play.
Despite running thin on healthy bodies, the Wizards look to win their fifth game in a row when they host the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday night in the teams' first meeting of the season.
Washington (13-10) beat Sacramento 92-79 on Saturday with just nine healthy players after it learned earlier in the day that backup point guard Antonio Daniels would be out up to four weeks because of a sprained ACL.
Daniels joins a list of wounded Wizards that includes star Gilbert Arenas - who continues to recover from November knee surgery. Forward Etan Thomas has been out since undergoing open heart surgery in October, and rookie forward Oleksiy Pecherov is sidelined with a broken right ankle.
Despite the injuries, the Wizards have won six of their last seven and are 13-5 since opening with five straight losses.
"We are trying to prepare the guys we have,'' Washington coach Eddie Jordan said. "We can't be distracted by something we can't control. It isn't worth it.''
The Wizards will hope for another strong night from starting guard DeShawn Stevenson, who had 19 points and seven assists on Saturday. Center Brendan Haywood added 17 points and 11 rebounds for Washington, which won despite being held below its 101.6 season average for the first time in six games.
Stevenson is heating up with Arenas out, averaging 17.7 points - well above his 8.5 season mark - in his last four contests. He scored a season-high 26 in a 104-91 win at Miami on Thursday.
"I'm just taking my time,'' said Stevenson, who averaged 11.2 points last season. "I started off slow last year, and I started off slow this season. It takes time to get my rhythm. I don't get a lot of shots with Gilbert.''
The Wizards are also playing better defensively, allowing just 86.7 points over their last four games since a 122-107 loss to Phoenix on Dec. 7.
Washington went 1-3 versus the Bulls in 2006-07, with its lone victory coming 113-103 at home on Jan. 10.
Though Chicago (8-14) looks for a third straight win over Washington, it must bounce back from a 103-91 home loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday.
Luol Deng had 26 points and seven rebounds, and Kirk Hinrich added 17 points with eight assists for Chicago, which has alternated wins and losses over its last six contests.
"It's just frustrating,'' said Chicago's Ben Gordon, who was held to eight points Tuesday - well below his 17.3 average. "You can use any word you want, but it's just frustrating.''
Deng has played well lately, averaging 27.5 in his last two contests. He averaged 19.8 points and 8 rebounds versus the Wizards last season.
Forward Andres Nocioni, who averages 15 points and had 14 against the Lakers, injured his right ankle Tuesday, leaving his status uncertain for Wednesday's game.
Chicago has won seven of the last 10 meetings with Washington.
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