As they move closer to being fully healthy, the Washington Wizards feel they could surprise the rest of the Eastern Conference in the playoffs.

Their last five games should provide a pretty good measuring stick.

The Wizards will hope to have Antawn Jamison and Gilbert Arenas in the lineup when they begin a tough final stretch by hosting the Boston Celtics on Wednesday, looking to become just the second team to win its season series against the NBA's best team.

Jamison has missed the last two games with a shoulder problem and Arenas was out for Saturday's 99-87 win at Chicago while he rested his injured knee, but both players hope to be in the lineup Wednesday.

Washington (40-37) has had both stars in the lineup for just one game - last Wednesday's 110-109 loss to Milwaukee - since November. Arenas had returned for two games after his 66-game absence due to knee surgery, and he and Jamison both practiced Monday.

Four of the Wizards' last five games are against playoff teams, including three against the top three teams in the East.

"We can really put our foot on the pedal in these last five games and do what we need to do to win all five games," Jamison said. "We want to be able to feel good about ourselves going down the stretch."

Even without Jamison and Arenas, the Wizards managed to beat the non-contending Bulls on Saturday, as center Brendan Haywood had a career-high 25 points and 10 rebounds for his 16th double-double of the season.

Caron Butler added 18 points and eight rebounds, then added a warning for the rest of the conference, saying the Wizards could "creep up on a lot of people" in the postseason. Arenas, Butler and Jamison are all averaging at least 20 points this season.

"If I was on the opposing team and I looked at this squad," Butler said, "I would be scared because we can cause a lot of matchup problems."

The Wizards, who have already clinched a playoff berth, are currently in fifth place in the East, one game ahead of Philadelphia and two games behind Cleveland.

Their current position could mean a possible second-round matchup with the Celtics (62-15), which may not be welcome for Boston. The Wizards are 2-1 against Boston, making them one of just three teams to beat the Celtics twice, which they accomplished during a home-and-home series in January.

Orlando is the only team to win its 2007-08 season series against Boston.

Washington held the Celtics to two of their five lowest scores of the season in its wins, as Boston shot below 42 percent from the field in each game, combining for just 161 points.

The Celtics are cruising to the finish line after clinching home-court advantage throughout the playoffs, but despite erratic minutes for their starters, they have still won seven straight.

They won 107-104 in overtime at Milwaukee on Tuesday, as Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen all returned to the lineup after sitting out Saturday's 101-78 victory at Charlotte. The trio didn't play after the third quarter against the Bucks, even as Boston blew a 14-point fourth-quarter lead.

The Celtics' reserves managed to hold on, as Tony Allen had 17 points and James Posey added 16. Even though coach Doc Rivers said his stars could play "a little more" against the Wizards, Washington may see more of the same from the Celtics.

"I just don't want our guys playing big minutes down the stretch," Rivers said.


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