The Sacramento Kings just delivered a serious blow to an Eastern Conference playoff hopeful, though it likely cost them their best player for a game.
The Miami Heat will try to take advantage after their own loss as they continue to push for a division title while extending their dominance in this series Friday night at Sacramento.
Sacramento (30-45) won for the third time in four games with Wednesday's 120-111 victory over fading Washington. The price was leading scorer and rebounder DeMarcus Cousins.
With the game in hand, Cousins and Rajon Rondo received technical fouls for sarcastically clapping toward an official with 6.7 seconds left following a turnover from failing to inbound the ball. It was Cousins' league-leading 16th technical, which brings an automatic one-game suspension if upheld.
Rondo was ejected with a second technical after a discussion with the official.
"Sometimes the game isn't about the players on the court. It's about ... ," Rondo hesitated, " ... fill in the blank."
It will be about who's not there on Friday as Cousins is likely to miss his 13th game. The Kings are 2-10 without the two-time All-Star, who had 29 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, five steals and four blocks against the Wizards while playing through lingering knee and foot injuries.
Cousins - who said he would also sit out Saturday's contest in Denver - missed a 116-109 loss to Miami on Nov. 19 due to a suspension for hitting Atlanta center Al Horford with a forearm.
While Cousins' impact on the court is unquestioned, it's had little effect on the results of this series. The Heat (43-31) have won 21 of the last 23 against the Kings, including eight victories in 10 games at Sacramento. Miami is 9-1 against the Kings since Cousins entered the league in 2010-11.
The Heat can sweep the series for the seventh time in eight seasons while keeping pace in a tight race for the Southeast Division title and a top-four seed in the East. They are tied with Charlotte, one game back of the Hawks in the division.
Miami coughed up a chance to inch a half-game closer by opening a three-game road trip with Wednesday's 102-100 overtime loss to the woeful Los Angeles Lakers. The Heat committed 18 turnovers while going 3 of 17 from 3-point range and hitting 15 of 26 free throws.
''It was just total disrespect to the opponents tonight,'' said Dwyane Wade, who had 26 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. ''Those guys are good players, and you have to play them the same way you play an opponent you fear. We didn't do that, and that's why they got the win.''
Miami closes the season with five of eight games on the road, where the Heat fell to 18-18. Sacramento is 17-20 at Sleep Train Arena but has won three straight there.
''The road is real. It doesn't matter who you play," Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said.
Wade had 24 points, six assists and five rebounds against the Kings in November. Chris Bosh (blood clots) and Tyler Johnson (shoulder) combined for 42, but neither will play Friday.
Rondo recorded 14 points, 18 assists and nine rebounds in that game.