The discrepancy between what the Wizards’ record says they are and what they believe they are has perhaps never been greater. Relative good health and the improved play of role players have converged at a time when the team is too low in the standings to ever be taken seriously as a playoff threat but too high in spirits to give in on the rest of the season.
And that belief was evident in early in the game when Webster (10 points) climbed Cousins for an emphatic dunk early and nodded his head toward the Wizards’ bench as he ran back on defense. Later, Beal drilled his third three-pointer of the first half and mockingly stared down Kings reserve James Johnson, who had the nerve to fly in front of him.
Sacramento mayor and former NBA star Kevin Johnson sat courtside as he attempts to keep the Kings in town despite efforts from a group in Seattle to purchase the team and move it to the Pacific Northwest. The Kings (15-24) have been one of the league’s worst teams this season, but they have been respectable at home, winning 12 of their 22 games at Sleep Train Arena. The Wizards have lost three straight in the building.
“Our effort was great,” Coach Randy Wittman, a former King, said after possibly his last game in Sacramento, “but this one hurts. There is no question about it. Put themselves in position to win that and we walked away without it.”
The Wizards had 32 assists for the second game in a row, with Wall serving as a spectacular setup man. He had three assists in the third period, driving into the lane, drawing three defenders and finding Beal for a corner three-pointer that put the Wizards ahead 66-55. He later weaved along the baseline, whipped the ball behind-the-back and around the waist before making an underhand dish to Nene for a layup.
Nene (15 points, nine rebounds) scored five straight points during a 7-2 run that put them ahead 91-86 but Cousins made a layup, then coerced Kevin Seraphin into fouling him on a driving layup and made a free throw to tie the score with 1 minute 48 seconds remaining. Webster and Salmons then traded three-pointers before Beal was unable to handle a pass from Webster in the left corner and fumbled the ball out of bounds.
“It was a hard to give away a game like that,” said Nene, who is set to make his return to Denver on Friday for the first time since getting traded to Washington last March. “A lot of us are going to be angry, because give away a game here, somebody need to pay for it. Probably, [the Nuggets] are going to pay for it.”