Improving interior defense a primary need

There are going to be many highs and lows over the course of an excruciating 82-game season. But teams almost always settle into exactly where they should be at year's end. After an injury-filled 2003-04 that helped contribute to a 25-57 finish, the Washington Wizards set a goal this season to make the playoffs.

After Wednesday's 93-82 victory over Chicago, the Wizards' 43 victories represent a 18-triumph increase. Coach Eddie Jordan's team has enjoyed the league's third-best turnaround, and heads to the playoffs for the first time since 1997.

The Wizards were 30-19 on Feb. 11 but have played sub-.500 ball (13-16) since. They've endured a recent five-game losing streak that featured critical losses at home to the Indiana Pacers, Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers and on the road against the Pacers and Detroit Pistons.

Why have the high-powered Wizards stumbled? There are many reasons for this.