The Wizards winning consecutive games for the first time since Feb. 9 coincides with the re-emergence of Rasual Butler, who reached double figures in scoring for the first time since then, too, in Saturday's comeback win vs. the Sacramento Kings.
Whether Butler, 35, is over the hump and back to playing the way he did early in the season when the Wizards began 31-15 will be determined soon, starting with tonight's game vs. the Portland Trail Blazers at Verizon Center (CSN, CSNwashington.com and NBC Sports Live Extra, 6:30 p.m. ET).
"Just like I told him, 'I'm not going to lose faith in you.' I'm going to keep throwing bodies out there and something is going to happen," coach Randy Wittman said after Saturday's game. "Rasual has gone through a tough stretch. He had bounce in his legs."
As the Wizards (38-28) lost 12 of 15 games coming out of the All-Star break with an open roster spot, the feeling was Butler or Martell Webster would round into form and that one of those forwards remained better than any options available in free agency. When Butler is on, that's true.
Butler made 6 of 10 shots for 14 points in the Wizards' 113-97 win, half of them coming in a 29-12 fourth quarter when they took the lead for the first time and never looked back. But where Butler was just as valuable was his defense as he helped force Derrick Williams into missing 4 of 5 shots.
"We felt like we needed to pick our pressure up and make it much tougher for them to catch the ball and take them out of their offense as much as we could and we did a better job of that in the second half," said Butler. "That's our identity. We understand that. We just need to do a better job of not being so Jekyll and Hyde. We just need to come out at the beginning of the game to establish that early and allow that to carry us throughout the game."
Butler made 2 of 4 three-point shots, the first time he has shot at least 50% from deep in any of the Wizards' last 14 games. He had been 9 of 45 overall in that stretch, or 20%, and began to fall out of the regular rotation.
In scoring five of the Wizards' first 10 points of the fourth quarter, Butler sparked them in pulling away from Sacramento. His smooth-looking, finger-roll layup pushed the lead to 99-88 to cap an early-season throwback performance.
"I had to finish the play for us. Brad (Beal) made a great play. I put a little extra on it. I was feeling good," Butler said. "It's been a while so it just really exciting to step in to give us a boost. We're better when we get everybody to contribute. When we have six, seven, eight guys in double figures that's when we're at our best."