PHILADELPHIA — The Washington Wizards could look at the schedule, starting with Wednesday night’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers, and see a stretch of “winnable” games against sub-.500 teams. Yet after this 109-102 loss, the Wizards face the sobering realization that there is no such thing as an easy opponent for them.
Philadelphia, playing without its top player, soundly defeated the Wizards (2-8), who have yet to win on the road and were again playing without Bradley Beal. The loss, to a 2-9 team deep in the throes of yet another rebuilding season, may have answered the question: Can the season get any worse?
“There was about a 12-minute period,” observed Coach Scott Brooks, “where we showed no resistance and it’s unacceptable.”
John Wall played under a minutes restriction, appearing for only eight minutes through the first quarter and sitting out the remainder of the half. When Wall left in the first quarter, the Wizards trailed 16-12. He then watched from the bench as the 76ers’ lead expanded to 24 points. So, what went wrong?
“Everything. To be honest, it’s like everything went wrong,” Wall said. “They were scoring at will. Whoever they put out there.”
Wall logged 24 minutes for the game and finished with 27 points and six assists.
The Wizards were without Beal (right hamstring tightness) for a third straight game.The 76ers, though, didn’t have Joel Embiid, an early candidate for rookie of the year, and dominated with effort regardless.
Without Embiid (averaging a team-high 18 points and 7.3 rebounds), Philadelphia turned to second-year standout Jahlil Okafor. Okafor, however, picked up two quick fouls, sending him to the bench. Its frontcourt thinned, Philadelphia pounded the Wizards from the perimeter, making four open three-pointers in the first quarter.
“They’re an NBA team that’s going to compete every second of the game,” Brooks said, “and we have to be able to do that with our team.”
By the second quarter, Okafor returned to the court with the 76ers leading 29-15 and the focus shifted to the interior. Okafor showed a soft touch and silky post moves in scoring 10 points through the frame.
The Wizards simply couldn’t get out of their own way. After Marcus Thornton slipped in a half-court set and turned the ball over, the play led to a three-on-one fast break and three-point play for Gerald Henderson. When Trey Burke blew a potential transition layup, Henderson raced down court and drew another three-point play. Later, a Markieff Morris miss and poor transition defense led to a breakaway dunk.
The Wizards cut their deficit to 11 by halftime, but the numbers were not pretty: The 76ers shot 60.5 percent from the field, outscoring Washington 28-18 in the paint and 14-6 in transition.
Washington spent the second half playing catch-up, and came within 103-100 with 1:29 remaining. But with the Wizards in need of a stop, a busted play turned into an open corner three for Richaun Holmes, the capper of a game that saw Philadelphia make 10 of 28 from beyond the arc.
In the ruins of the loss, the stat sheet brought some consolation: Morris finished with 19 points, Otto Porter Jr. had 15 and 13 rebounds, and Marcin Gortat had 10 points and 14 boards.
Next up are the New York Knicks, the second of five straight opponents who are under .500. But after a loss like this, it’s clear nothing will come easily.
“It’s still early. I’m not down but I want some urgency and I’m going to have to find guys that are going to do that each time when we put them in the game. Whoever starts the game,” Brooks said. “It has to mean something.
“We’re playing for our organization every night, and then secondary, you’re playing for your teammates, and then you’re playing for your family’s name. It’s about competing for each other, and we have to do that for 48 minutes both sides of the ball.”