The Atlanta Hawks should be grateful Gilbert Arenas is expected to wait a bit longer before making his return to the Washington Wizards' lineup.While they likely won't have to deal with one of the NBA's top stars, the Hawks look to win their third straight game and remain in playoff position when they visit the surging Wizards on Monday night.
With a 109-98 win at New York on Sunday, Atlanta (28-38) has won two straight after losing six of its previous seven contests. It also moved into a tie with New Jersey for the eighth and final playoff spot in the weak Eastern Conference.
The Hawks, who haven't made the playoffs since 1998-99, close out their three-game road trip against New Jersey on Wednesday. Before looking ahead to that matchup, Atlanta will try to even the season series with Washington (33-32) when the teams meet for the final time in 2007-08.
Washington has won two of the three meetings this season, including a 102-98 overtime victory at Atlanta on Jan. 11 in their most recent contest
The Wizards, coming off a 119-109 overtime win against the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday, appear to be close to having Arenas back on the court for the first time since he underwent surgery on his left knee on Nov. 21.
Arenas, who was averaging 22.4 points and 5.9 assists in eight games prior to the surgery, is scheduled to undergo an MRI on Tuesday and if he's cleared to play could be on the court as early as Wednesday when the Wizards visit Orlando.
"(The MRI is) just to make sure nothing's wrong," said Arenas, who's back practicing with the team.
Though Arenas isn't expected to be on the floor Monday, Atlanta won't have it easy trying for its second consecutive victory at Washington after winning 97-92 there on Dec. 21.
The Wizards' Antawn Jamison had 36 points with 11 rebounds and hit three free throws to send the game into overtime Saturday against the Clippers for the team's third straight victory.
Caron Butler added 16 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in his second game since missing 16 with a left hip injury as the Wizards outscored the Clippers 19-9 in overtime to record their highest point total of the season.
"We said, 'We're going to win this game,'" said Jamison, who scored 30 or more points for the eighth time this season. "I knew that if we could get a good couple of minutes starting the overtime, that we'd find a way to pull it off."
Jamison is averaging 21.6 points on the season and 25.0 in three games versus Atlanta this season.
While Jamison is looking for another big night, Atlanta's Joe Johnson will try to continue his recent strong play after scoring 28 points and recording 11 assists Sunday as the Hawks shot 51 percent in the second half to beat the Knicks.
The All-Star guard is averaging 29.0 points and shooting 57.7 percent (30-for-52) from 3-point range in his last eight contests.
"He's trying to carry this team into the playoffs," Atlanta coach Mike Woodson said. "He's putting them on his back and he's playing well."
Johnson had 32 points at Washington in December and added 23 in Atlanta's loss to the Wizards in January.