Kings-Wizards Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated January 27, 2013
Sparked by the return of their starting point guard, the Washington Wizards have played like a different team following their forgettable start. The Sacramento Kings, however, can't seem to find an answer for their season-long struggles. The Wizards will try for their first six-game home winning streak in six years on Monday night when they host the Kings, losers of four straight. After a 4-28 start, Washington (11-31) no longer has the NBA's worst record after moving a half game ahead of Charlotte with a 114-101 victory over Minnesota on Friday. The Wizards have shown they can get it done in different ways during their surge. After shooting a season-high 57.8 percent against the Timberwolves, they won a defensive battle, 86-73, over Central Division-leading Chicago on Saturday. With a victory over the sliding Kings, Washington will have its longest home winning streak since a 10-game run during the 2006-07 season. "We are the team we thought we were supposed to be,'' center Emeka Okafor said. While their run began just before John Wall returned from a left knee injury, the Wizards certainly have built some momentum while playing with a healthy lineup for the first time. Wall has averaged 14.1 points and 6.7 assists, helping Washington win six of his nine games. "It's not just me, man. It's never just me. I wanted to come in and be a spark for the team,'' said Wall, who moved back into the starting lineup against Minnesota. "I'm just doing a great job of getting easy shots for my teammates.'' After averaging 89.2 points on 40.9 percent shooting in their first 34 games, the Wizards have put up 99.9 while shooting 47.2 percent from the field in their last eight. Washington should be able to keep it going against the Kings, who haven't been able to stop anybody recently. Sacramento (16-29) has allowed 111.5 points on 49.4 percent shooting over their four-game skid. The Kings couldn't stop Bradley Beal in their first look at the Wizards on Jan. 16 - the rookie scored a season-high 26 points and hit 6 of 7 from 3-point range - but managed to contain everyone else. Tyreke Evans made one of two free throws with 11.4 seconds left and finished with 21 points, eight rebounds and eight assists in a 95-94 win. John Salmons and DeMarcus Cousins also scored 21 apiece to help the Kings finish with a season-best 62 points in the paint. Cousins, however, will be looking to bounce back after finishing with a season-low three points in a 121-93 loss at Denver on Saturday. It was the first time in his past 17 games he failed to score in double figures. Sacramento will also need to take better care of the basketball. It's averaged 21.0 turnovers in its last three games after giving it up 20 times against the Nuggets. "(We) have to play a controlled basketball game," coach Keith Smart said. "I thought our passes were shaky that led to 25 points on 20 turnovers." It may be a difficult task against a Washington team that has forced 34 turnovers in its last two games. Sacramento has won three of four against the Wizards, including a 115-107 victory last February that snapped a six-game losing streak in Washington.
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