6:00 PM ET, February 9, 2014
Verizon Center, Washington, DC
WASHINGTON -- Washington coach Randy Wittman isn't content with getting back to .500 and doesn't want the Wizards to be either.
At 25-25, Washington is on track for its first playoff berth in six years. After an uninspiring 93-84 win over the Sacramento Kings, however, Wittman made it clear he expects more.
"I don't want them to be satisfied," Wittman said. "We're back to .500. We're better than .500. I want them to believe that. They believe that."
Over its last 14 games, Washington has been within a game of .500. Its flirtation with a winning record has been a source of ridicule. Quality wins over Miami, Oklahoma City and at Golden State were countered by home losses to Detroit, Boston, and Cleveland.
As Washington frittered away most of a 17-point lead against Sacramento, Sunday's game bore some of the earmarks of those unfocused defeats.
"I won't accept the way we played," Martell Webster said. "We should have won by 30 points."
Nene scored 18 points and led a strong defensive effort, limiting DeMarcus Cousins to 14 points on 3-of-16 shooting. On a key sequence in the fourth quarter, Nene made a jumper, then followed with a block of Cousins.
Nene took little credit for shutting down the NBA's ninth-leading scorer.
"You know his average," Nene said. "We did our job."
The Kings outrebounded the Wizards 49-38, but made only 35.4 percent of their field goal tries, went 2 of 11 from 3-point range, and committed 18 turnovers leading to 26 Washington points.
"That was not an offensive performance we were hoping for," Sacramento coach Michael Malone said. "Very hard to win on the road when you turn the ball over that many times. We talked about it going in that this is a team that does a great job turning their opponents over and scoring."
Sacramento's Isaiah Thomas scored 30 points and had eight assists, but he had little help. Rudy Gay, one of three Kings who averages more than 20 points per game, had five points, hitting two of 11 shots.
Rookie Ben McLemore scored nine of his 11 points in the second half, helping the Kings reduce the 17-point deficit to four. But Beal answered with 3-pointers from the same spot in the left corner to steady the Wizards.
"We wish we could have had at least 10 more wins, but at the end of the day, we really can't complain where we are at," Beal said. "We're in a solid position playoff-wise, but we still have a lot of moves to make."
Washington took command in the first half with a lift from its reserves. After Webster hit a 3-pointer, Kevin Seraphin made hook shots to close and open the quarters and added a jumper. When Garrett Temple retrieved a loose ball and scored a transition three-point-play, the Wizards had a 39-26 lead.
Washington's lead swelled to 17 points in the third quarter, but Sacramento went on a 14-2 run that bridged the quarters, the surge touched off by Quincy Acy, who scored on a put-back slam.
It wasn't the resounding win the Wizards were looking for. Afterward they faced another round of questions about a sore subject -- their .500 mark.
"I don't want to answer that. I don't care about .500," Nene said. "We need everything we can. That's the mentality. If you're going to think small like that, it's fine, just stop right there. If you want to go for the gold, the championship, make the team better, you need to think forward."
Kentucky coach John Calipari attended the game, visiting with former Wildcats Cousins and John Wall. ... With a 22.9 scoring average entering Sunday, Cousins ranks ninth in the NBA and is the only player in the top 15 who was not selected to play in the All-Star game. ... Rudy Gay (illness) and Marcus Thornton (hip) returned to the starting lineup after missing Friday's loss at Boston.
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 9: Nene #42 of the Washington Wizards shoots against the Sacramento Kings during the...(Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)
Around The Association
MVP: At first glance, Marcin Gortat's stat line may not jump out (17 points and eight rebounds), but that was enough for the Wizards center to outplay DeMarcus Cousins, who struggled his way to his 32nd double-double of the season. With Cousins' having an off night, the Kings had no answer for the Wizards' frontline.
LVP: Cousins has not been himself the past two games. On Sunday, he finished with his 19th double-double in his past 20 games, but it wasn't easy. In defeat, the Kings' starting center scored just 14 points on an inefficient 3-of-16 shooting from the field and committed four costly turnovers .
X factor: Kings' turnovers. The Kings were loose with the ball and the Wizards took full advantage. In victory, the Wizards were able to score 26 points off the Kings' 18 turnovers in victory.
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