Wizards-Kings Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated January 15, 2013
The return of John Wall even in limited minutes has seemed to ignite the Washington Wizards, who are on the verge of a four-game winning streak that would double their previous win total. Accomplishing that feat requires beating the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night to begin their five-game, eight-day western road trip. One game after rookie Bradley Beal hit a jumper with 0.3 seconds remaining to beat Oklahoma City 101-99 on Jan. 7, Wall returned in a reserve role and scored 14 points in a 93-83 win over Atlanta on Saturday. He scored 12 and added six assists off the bench in nearly 20 minutes of Monday's 120-91 rout of Orlando, and Wall's quickness and ability to lead the break are still apparent despite him sitting out the first 33 games with a left knee injury. The Wizards (7-28) had a season-high 29 fast-break points Monday. "It just came out of nowhere how fast we're playing now," said Beal, averaging 18.3 points during the winning streak. "With John back, the speed is so much faster." Coach Randy Wittman has noticed a difference in his team's play with Wall in the lineup, too. Washington set season bests for points, field-goal percentage (56.1) and 3-point percentage (63.6) against Orlando. "He brings the added dimension that nobody has," Wittman said. "Guys have to run harder." Though Wall's return undoubtedly has had a positive impact, Washington believes it played much better than its record indicated prior to this run. The Wizards have lost 12 games by six points or fewer, including three in overtime and two in double OT. "These games have not been flukes, we've just been playing very well," said guard A.J. Price, who has scored 34 points while shooting 11 of 21 over his last two games. "We lost so many close games that I think once we started losing so many in a row, it became a mental thing." Washington - an NBA-worst 1-15 on the road - has a tough task ahead as it faces Denver, the Los Angeles Clippers, Portland and Utah on its trip, which begins against a Kings team that ended a four-game losing streak with a 124-118 win over Cleveland on Monday. Sacramento (14-24), which concludes a five-game homestand Wednesday, lost by an average of 21.5 points during the skid. "We definitely took a step forward and that's a good thing," said center DeMarcus Cousins, averaging 22.5 points and 11.7 rebounds over his last six. "It feels good to come in and get a win, especially after that embarrassment (128-99 loss to Miami on Saturday). It feels good." Tyreke Evans likely will remain in the starting lineup against Washington after scoring 18 points Monday. He made his first start in his fourth game back from missing 11 with a sore left knee. Marcus Thornton scored 20 off the bench and seemed at full strength in his third game back after missing five with a sprained left ankle. "I very much wanted Tyreke Evans and Marcus Thornton to have a good game," coach Keith Smart said. "I have to get those two guys back into a flow with the game. I thought both of those guys did a great job with that." Evans and Thornton each scored 22 points in starting roles to help overcome 21 and 11 assists from Wall in Sacramento's 115-107 road victory Feb. 22 in the most recent meeting.
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