The Washington Wizards officially are halfway through a season in which they’ve exceeded expectations, though they’re by no means reveling in that success.
Washington looks to win for the seventh time in nine games with a fourth consecutive victory against the visiting Philadelphia 76ers on Monday.
The Wizards (28-13) are well on pace to win over 45 games for the first time since going 54-28 and making the franchise’s last NBA Finals appearance in 1978-79. They also have their sights set on a deep playoff run after last season’s second-round exit.
Nene scored 20 points and Marcin Gortat added 10 points and 16 rebounds to help Washington complete the first half of its schedule with Saturday’s 99-90 win at Brooklyn.
"You don’t take a deep breath and exhale because you’re through 41 games," coach Randy Wittman said. "We’ve done some good things. We’ve got 41 games now that are going to be pivotal coming down the stretch. We just have to keep plugging along."
Bradley Beal has combined with John Wall to form one of the more dangerous backcourt tandems in the league. Beal had 17 points, nine rebounds and eight assists against the Nets, while Wall finished with 11, six and six.
"We always wish we could do better, but so far, so good," Beal said. "We’ve still got another 41 left and right now we’re in a good position. At the same time, we can’t get complacent. The sky is the limit for us. We know that we can be one of the best teams in the East, if not the best."
Washington, which has the second-best record in the Eastern Conference behind Atlanta, will try to hand Philadelphia (8-32) its fourth loss in five games.
Each of the 76ers’ defeats during that stretch have come by at least 16 points, including Saturday’s 107-89 loss at Detroit. Michael Carter-Williams had 15 points, but Luc Richard Mbah a Moute was the only other starter in double figures with 11.
Henry Sims had 12 points and 10 rebounds off the bench for Philadelphia, which had 22 turnovers after tying its season low with 10 in Friday’s 98-81 win over New Orleans.
The 76ers are committing a league-high 18.7 giveaways per game, and Carter-Williams’ 4.4 per contest are the most of any NBA player.
"I just don’t think we had the right mindset," coach Brett Brown said. "To win two in a row in this league is hard, and we didn’t have the ability to do that. We probably had 25 possessions that we wanted back, and this game is too unforgiving to win when you do that."
The Sixers are averaging a league-worst 90.4 points and have been held to fewer than 100 in 17 straight contests. That may not bode well against a Wizards team that is 23-1 when holding opponents to fewer than 100.
Philadelphia has lost each of the last three meetings despite averaging 101.3 points. Wall had 17 points and 16 assists, while Gortat finished with 13 points and 14 boards in the Wizards’ 122-103 road victory in the most recent matchup March 1.
Carter-Williams had 15 points but finished 5 of 14 from the field.