The Washington Wizards haven’t won seven straight games since Gilbert Arenas and Larry Hughes were leading them to the playoffs.
Playing their best basketball of the season, the Wizards will try for their longest winning streak in over nine years when they host the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday night.
Washington (31-28) has won six in a row for the first time since taking the final six games of the 2011-12 season, and a suddenly explosive offense has been the key. The team has averaged 112.5 points since the streak began Feb. 19 – the most in the Eastern Conference in that span. Prior to that, the Wizards were scoring 99.2 per game.
"From an offensive standpoint, we move the ball," coach Randy Whitman said following a 122-103 win over Philadelphia on Saturday. "When we don’t predetermine what we are going to do, read what the defense is doing and move the ball, it’s a thing of beauty."
Washington now has its sights set on winning seven straight for the first time since Jan. 2-15, 2005, a streak that came during a regular season that was ultimately the first of four consecutive campaigns ending with a playoff berth.
In the win against Philadelphia, the Wizards finished with 33 assists, one shy of a season high. Point guard John Wall matched a career best with 16 assists, most of them going to Trevor Ariza, who scored a career-high 40 points.
"We know we are on a good streak right now, but we have a tough game coming up against Memphis," Wall said.
For the Wizards to keep their run going, they’ll need to slow the Grizzlies’ inside duo of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. Randolph is coming off a 23-point, 14-rebound performance Friday in a 110-96 victory against Cleveland, while Gasol chipped in with 22 points, eight rebounds and six assists.
"It’s just him, he can get himself going," Gasol said of Randolph. "He’s so hard to stop that no matter what they try to do it’s just Zach being Zach."
The two big men continue to set the tone for Memphis (33-25), along with point guard Mike Conley, who had 22 points and seven assists against the Cavaliers.
All three players have also been key to a solid defense for Memphis, which has allowed just 94.9 points per game this season – the fewest in a tough Western Conference.
"When Marc Gasol, Z-Bo (Randolph) and Mike are making shots and playing together on the defensive end, I like our odds," shooting guard Tony Allen said. "We are just a team that is going to go out there and take it one game at a time."
Memphis comes in having won seven of its last 10, including a victory Feb. 11 that was the first of three straight for the Wizards preceding their current surge.
Bradley Beal scored a career-high 37 points for Washington in that one, but he struggled down the stretch, missing five of his final six shots in the 92-89 loss. Gasol and Nick Calathes led the way for Memphis with 18 points apiece.
The Grizzlies have won four of the last five meetings between the teams, but the Wizards have won the last two in Washington. Memphis last won in the nation’s capital with a 99-94 victory on Feb. 24, 2010.