Wizards-Nuggets Preview

The Washington Wizards are chasing their first playoff berth in six years as one of just six teams in the Eastern Conference with a winning record.

Put them in the West and they’d be 4 1/2 games back of the postseason cutoff.

The Wizards will try to salvage a split of their four-game western trip against the Denver Nuggets on Sunday.

Washington (36-33), in sixth place in the East, dropped the first two on its current swing against Sacramento and Portland before beating the Los Angeles Lakers 117-107 on Friday night.

John Wall had 28 points and 14 assists for the Wizards, who are 11-17 against the West – 4-10 on the road – and would be sitting in 10th place in that conference.

"I’m glad I’m in the East," Wall said. "But we still haven’t solidified a playoff spot, so we knew we had to get back on the right track – pushing the ball and playing team defense. When we get stagnant, we don’t play great and lose a lot of games like that. So it was great to get to come back tonight and get back on the winning track."

Since failing to score in double figures in back-to-back games for the only time this season from March 5-8, Wall has averaged 23.8 points and hit 19 of 34 3-point attempts over his previous six.

"He’s a competitor that comes every night," coach Randy Wittman said. "He’s obviously a big part that gets our engine running. So I want him to understand how important he is in continuing that."

Bradley Beal added 18 points for Washington, which was without center Nene for a 13th straight game because of a sprained left knee. Marcin Gortat returned with 13 points and 13 rebounds after missing his first game of the season at Portland due to lower back pain.

The Wizards are 11-5 since a three-game losing streak Feb. 11-18 and have already won seven more games than they did last season.

"The difference this year is just trusting each other," Wall said. "This is a group that enjoys playing with each other, and we know the one thing we can do is play hard for 48 minutes and trust any guy down the stretch."

Denver (31-38) is 11th in the West and virtually out of the playoff race but would be right in the thick of it in the East. The streaky Nuggets have won four of six, including victories over Miami and the Los Angeles Clippers.

They failed to win three straight for the first time in over two months with a 122-106 loss in Dallas on Friday night.

"We made a lot of mistakes, and we don’t have much margin for error," coach Brian Shaw said.

The Nuggets suffered a bigger blow with the loss of J.J. Hickson, who tore his ACL and is done for the season.

Denver lost its 10th in the last 13 road games, but has won four straight at home.

The Nuggets (103.9 points per game) and Wizards (101.0) put on a surprising defensive display in the first meeting Dec. 9. Denver scored a season low and held Washington to its third-lowest point total in a 75-74 victory.

The Wizards were held without a field goal over the final 4:04.