SACRAMENTO, Calif. - In the backs of their minds, the Washington Wizards know they stole a win last week at home against the Sacramento Kings, who came into MCI Center tired and ready to go home after an extended East Coast swing.
There would be no such pilfering last night as the real Kings, the team with the best record in the NBA, slowly but surely blistered the Wizards, 109-93.
Rested and relaxed and back at Arco Arena, the toughest place in the league for a road team to get a win, the Kings shook off a hesitant start, then methodically took Washington (26-23) apart, with a dazzling show of athleticism.
The Kings (39-12), who are a league-best 26-1 at home, were particularly sharp during a decisive 14-0 run near the end of the second quarter that broke open what had been a close contest.
"I spoke to our guys about the importance of finishing the quarter strong and taking care of the ball," said Washington coach Doug Collins. "We had four turnovers and two bad shots [in the run] and they ballooned the lead up to 15.
"That was really the killer stretch. We gave up 42 in the third quarter to the Lakers. [Last night] it was 36. If we're going to give up those kinds of points, we have no chance."
At the head of the charge last night was former Wizard Chris Webber, who finished with 20 points, 14 rebounds and nine assists.
Webber, who shot 9-for-23 from the field, left the game with 7:22 remaining, one assist short of what would have been his third triple double since he was traded by Washington before the 1997-98 season, as well as the second straight triple double recorded against the Wizards in as many games, after Kobe Bryant's classic in Los Angeles on Tuesday.
"He played well," said Washington forward Popeye Jones. "What they tried to do was get him the ball more in the post [last night]. They ran it through Chris tonight or Vlade [Divac] and they ran a three-man game and he played great for them. He responded. He's a great player and my hat's off to him."
Sacramento's Peja Stojakovic led all scorers with 21 points. Kings guard Mike Bibby had 20.
Michael Jordan led four Washington players in double figures with 16 points, but he did not play in the fourth quarter, as Collins largely conceded the contest at the start of the period, emptying his bench with a game in Phoenix tonight to be played.
"They controlled the tempo," Jordan said. "We made some crucial turnovers in the second quarter that ignited their transition. When it gets that kind of game, we just can't compete with that team. They looked extremely well [last night] and we're just not in their ballpark."
It didn't help that Richard Hamilton, who had a dazzling first quarter in the 103-94 loss to the Lakers on Tuesday, struggled last night, hitting just eight of 19 shots for 20 points.
The Wizards, who have dropped the first two games of their three-game Western mini-swing after a five-game winning streak just before the All-Star break, looked nothing like the team that beat Sacramento, 108-101, in Washington last week, but the Kings had something to do with that.
"We've caught the cream of the crop in the West," Collins said. "The good part about it, as I told our team is, if we're going to be a playoff team, this is the kind of environment that we're going to have to perform in.
"We're going to have to have poise and I thought we lost our poise in that second period. We lost our poise and they made us pay for it. The one thing about playing here is that you have to be on top of your game, because when you make mistakes here they make you pay for it."
Opponent: Phoenix Suns
Site: America West Arena, Phoenix
TV/Radio: CSN/WTEM (980 AM)