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As Wizards win, turnstiles move
Wizards Report

 Washington coach Eddie Jordan has led the Wizards to an Eastern Conference-best 16-3 record at home.
ERIC GAY/ASSOCIATED PRESS
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Date published: 1/19/2007

By ADAM HIMMELSBACH

WASHINGTON--The Wizards have won nine consecutive games at the Verizon Center, and at 16-3, they own the best home record in the Eastern Conference.

Forward Caron Butler does not think the quick start is an accident.

"The fans are backing us," Butler said Wednesday night, after his last-minute dunk had sent Washington to a 99-98 victory against the New York Knicks. "When you've got that fan support, people coming out and supporting you through thick and thin, it means a lot."

Butler is not simply speaking fluff. The Wizards' home attendance this season is their highest in the post-Michael Jordan era.

Through 19 home games, Washington is averaging 17,903 fans per game, a 4 percent increase over last season's average.

In 2003-04, the first season after Jordan retired, Washington averaged just 15,703 fans per game. That year, the Wizards ranked 21st in the league in attendance. They were 14th in '04-'05 (17,196) and 16th last season (17,122), but this year they have moved up to 13th.

"We feel so confident in this building that anything can happen," point guard Gilbert Arenas said. "If we're down four with five seconds left, we feel we can get a 3-pointer and the and-one. That's where our comfort level is right now."

It could be the start of a successful cycle for Washington. The better the fan support, they say, they better they play. And the better they play, the more fans could want to catch a glimpse.

The impending playoff run is likely to boost ticket sales down the season's stretch run, and three of Washington's next four home games will come against the Phoenix Suns, Detroit Pistons and Los Angeles Lakers, all of which are traditionally high draws.

With a home victory against the Celtics tomorrow night, the Wizards would have a 10-game home winning streak for the first time since the 1988-89 season.

"No matter what the road record," forward Antawn Jamison said, "at home it's always been good."

Magic men

If the season ended this morning, the Wizards would hold the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

But if the season truly ended this morning, there probably would not be any playoffs, because it is only January.

Arenas gets the point.

"Nothing is determined right now," the point guard said. "One win, you're in second place; one loss, you're in seventh."


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