The goal seems simple for most organizations, but it has been an arduous journey for a Washington Wizards franchise accustomed to slow starts and lottery appearances in the past six years. But with the target well in sight on Monday night, and with a realistic chance to make it happen against a weaker opponent, the Wizards stepped onto the court at Verizon Center focused on finally reaching .500 for the first time in four years.

With Trevor Ariza leading the way with hot perimeter shooting, John Wall running another solid floor game and Nene once again battling through a sore right Achilles’ tendon, the Wizards beat the Orlando Magic, 98-80, to improve to 9-9.

Before the game, Coach Randy Wittman said he wanted to see his team continue its climb from a 2-7 start. The Wizards completed a stretch of nine games in 14 days by going 7-2 and they now have the third-best record in the weak Eastern Conference. They are also 34-34 in their past 68 games.

“I thought they came out and they were determined to win this game, start to finish,” Wittman said. “I’m really happy and proud of these guys. We didn’t get off to the kind of start to the season that we wanted and dug a little bit of a hole, but these guys battled back and to do it in a stretch like this, I think it means something. Mentally, I think we’ve come a long ways.”

The Wizards haven’t been .500 since drafting Wall first overall in 2010 and their record is even for the first time since Nov. 3, 2009, when the team was just 2-2. Since then, the Wizards have gone 105-221 and experienced so much hardship and so many embarrassing moments that they have been begging for the dark cloud to find a new team to follow.