But improvement hasn't resulted in wins

The standings won't tell the Wizards that they have played better since acquiring Nene and parting ways with Nick Young and JaVale McGee. At 11-38, they still have the second-worst record in the league and own a four-game losing streak, matching their third longest slump of the year.

But there's no doubt that Washington is in the midst of what might be its best defensive stretch in more than three seasons, having held its last six opponents to an average of 88.8 points per game. The last time the Wizards went six straight games without giving up at least 100 points was in January 2009.

In the most recent six games for each NBA team, only New York, Philadelphia, Orlando and Chicago have given up fewer points. Of course, all four of those teams are also at least .500 during that stretch, while the Wizards are just 1-5.

Up next
Wizards at Pacers
When » Thursday, 7 p.m.
Where » Bankers Life Fieldhouse,

"I told our guys, 'Listen, we're all disappointed, probably a little frustration,'?" Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. "'But don't lose sight of what we're doing -- putting ourselves in position to win games against playoff teams.' Even the Boston game [an 88-76 loss], as bad as the first half was, we had an opportunity in the second half to make it a game."

What's most important to the Wizards is that they had a 22-point lead against the Indiana Pacers (29-19) -- who they will face Thursday -- a 16-point lead over Atlanta and a 13-point lead against Detroit. Of course, they squandered all three of those advantages late.

"It just hurts that we losing. We're not getting the results out of it," said guard Jordan Crawford, who has scored at least 20 points in each of the last half-dozen contests. "But ... we're playing better, playing a full game. I think teams that's coming in to play us know that, and now we're working on executing at the end."

Against the Pistons on Monday, the Wizards got the ball three times down the stretch to Nene, whose presence at both ends of the floor has had an immediate effect. The Brazilian center is unselfish with the ball and sets a complementary tone defensively alongside Kevin Seraphin, who has averaged 9.1 points and 5.6 rebounds in the last 10 games in an increased role following McGee's departure.

"I think it's more trust," Wizards forward Trevor Booker said. "We know guys are going to be there to help us. You actually want to sit down and play defense. You know if your opponent gets by you that you're going to have help there. That brings chemistry together and more trust."

In other news, the Wizards signed Cartier Martin to a 10-day contract, bringing back a guard/forward who averaged 4.0 points and 1.4 rebounds in 52 games with Washington last season before being waived in April. Martin played for the Jilin Northeastern Tigers in China during the lockout and then averaged 16.1 points in eight games with the Iowa Energy of the NBA Development League this year.