The Washington Wizards were expected to struggle after Gilbert Arenas underwent knee surgery in November. The Toronto Raptors didn't have a much brighter outlook after T.J. Ford suffered the latest in a series of neck injuries the following month.
Both teams, however, remain among Eastern Conference contenders.
The Raptors go for their eighth win in 10 games on Tuesday when they visit the Wizards in a matchup of teams that have overcome the loss of their starting point guards.
Arenas had surgery on his left knee for the second time in seven months on Nov. 21, leaving Washington without its leading scorer from each of the last four seasons. Without Arenas, however, the Wizards (23-19) have gone 20-14 to take over sixth place in the East.
They're directly behind the Raptors (24-19), who have gone 12-9 since Ford had to be taken off the court on a stretcher after an awkward fall in a game against Atlanta on Dec. 11. Ford, who suffers from a spinal cord condition, missed the entire 2004-05 season after undergoing neck surgery because of a similar fall.
Ford and Arenas both plan to return this season, but each player is expected to miss at least another month.
In Ford's absence, Jose Calderon has stepped up, averaging 13.7 points, 9.9 assists and 1.8 turnovers while shooting 50.5 percent from the field and 91.8 percent from the free-throw line as a starter. His 5.54 assist-to-turnover ratio is easily the best in the league, prompting some speculation that he's a candidate to make the All-Star team.
"For me, my name being close to the All-Star game is really good but other than that it's up to the coaches," said Calderon, who's in his third NBA season after starting his career in his native Spain. "I don't want to think too much about that. I just go there and just try to play 200 percent every night so my team wins and then I'm happy. If I'm going, it's going to be a dream. If not it's going to be the same thing."
Calderon had 11 points, 12 assists and one turnover in the Raptors' 106-75 win over Milwaukee on Friday - their seventh victory in nine games.
"The last couple of weeks we are playing really good basketball now," Calderon said. "We are playing like a team, we know what we are going to do with the ball and we know what we want to do on defense so everybody helps everybody."
Washington has been buoyed by forwards Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison, averaging 21.9 points and 21.3 points, respectively. Butler had a season-high 40 points, eight rebounds and five steals and Jamison added 21 points and nine boards on Sunday, but the Wizards fell 105-102 in overtime at Milwaukee.
They were outscored 10-3 in the final 2:18 of the extra session.
"We just didn't execute the way we needed to at the end," Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said.
Jamison had 28 points and 14 rebounds and Butler added 29 points as the Wizards beat the Raptors 101-97 in their first meeting Dec. 1. That was Washington's seventh win in its last eight home games against Toronto.
Chris Bosh, Toronto's leading scorer (22.5) and rebounder (9.2), missed these teams' first meeting with a groin injury. He's averaging 30.0 points and 9.5 rebounds while shooting 60.3 percent from the field in his last four games against Washington.
Copyright 2007 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited