The Washington Wizards have two steps left to try to avoid their first losing season in three years and the first one shouldn't be too difficult even without John Wall and Bradley Beal.
The Wizards may be without their two best players Monday night when they visit a Nets team that also could be short-handed and is on a season-high eight-game slide.
Both teams are winding down the season, with Washington (39-41) getting eliminated Friday from playoff contention. Coach Randy Wittman then set a new goal for his club.
"I told them when we got eliminated, let's see if we can get to .500,'' Wittman said. ''Guys are going to play that maybe haven't had the opportunities to play. We'll see if they can take advantage of those minutes. Let's take pride."
The coach was referring to how Wall has now missed three straight games with a sore left knee and may not play again this season. Beal left Sunday's 113-98 victory over Charlotte after playing the first 7:43 with a sore pelvis.
Washington improved to 2-1 in this stretch without Wall. Marcin Gortat had 21 points and 13 rebounds and Ramon Sessions scored 15 with 11 assists Sunday.
"Everybody wants to be in the playoffs and we feel like, from top to bottom our roster, we should be in the playoffs but it's one of those things that we just gotta keep grinding and learning and hopefully next season we can be where we want to be," said Sessions, who has been starting in place of Wall.
Brooklyn top scorer Brook Lopez has sat out the last four games and forward Thaddeus Young the last five as younger players get more minutes for the Nets, who are one defeat shy of reaching 60 for the fifth time in franchise history.
Increased minutes can be expected for Wizards rookie Kelly Oubre Jr., who hasn't played in three of the last five games, and Alan Anderson, who has seen action in just 11 games in an injury-plagued campaign.
Anderson will face the Nets (21-59) for the first time since playing the previous two seasons for them. He turned in some solid play in last year's playoffs for them, including a 23-point effort in a Game 5 first-round loss at Atlanta.
Washington has routed Brooklyn in each of the first two meetings, including Wednesday's 121-103 win in the first game of this stretch without Wall. Beal scored 25 and Sessions had 18 with a season-best 13 assists.
Thomas Robinson had 23 points and 10 boards in that contest as part of a streak of six straight double-doubles that ended in Sunday's 129-105 defeat at Indiana. He scored two points with two rebounds in nine minutes before leaving with a sore right knee.
Robinson was part of a starting five that had a major role in a dismal first quarter in which the Nets were outscored 39-19. Brooklyn trailed by as many as 42.
''I didn't see a lot of fight with our starting group,'' coach Tony Brown said. ''I wish they were prepared. I don't know what to tell you."