WASHINGTON – Times are hard for the 76ers in D.C.
Wednesday’s 123-106 loss to the Washington Wizards extended the Sixers' skid in the nation’s capital to nine games.
The Sixers’ last win in Washington came on Nov. 1, 2013. That marked the second game of The Process. The Sixers won the first three games en route to finishing that season with 19 wins. The franchise has come a long way since those days, having advanced to the second round of last season’s playoffs.
The expectations are even higher for a Sixers squad with three star players in Joel Embiid, Jimmy Butler, and Ben Simmons, and the fourth-best record in the Eastern Conference.
Yet, they still can’t beat the Wizards on their home floor.
So what’s the problem?
“I don’t know,” coach Brett Brown said.
Nor does T.J. McConnell.
“If I had that answer, I would tell you,” the reserve point guard said. “I don’t know what it is. We get clapped every time we play here. Like I said, I wish I could tell you.”
But Wednesday’s setback was surprising.
Washington (17-25) is without three starters. All-Star point guard John Wall underwent season-ending heel surgery. Center Dwight Howard is sidelined following spinal surgery, and power forward Markieff Morris is out with neck and back issues.
The Sixers had flat-out dominated the undermanned Wizards, 132-115, a night earlier in at the Wells Fargo Center.
But it was a different story in Washington despite Embiid’s game highs of 35 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks.
The Sixers were a step slow in just about everything they did. They also struggled from the field, shooting 29.6 percent (8-for-27) on three-pointers. Even that number was a bit misleading. Furkan Korkmaz drained three three-pointers in the final 1 minute, 31 seconds with the final outcome all but decided. The Sixers also had 24 turnovers, with Embiid and Simmons committing seven apiece. And Philly was doomed by its bench. The Wizards had a 51-12 advantage in bench points.
“They created stuff out of our turnovers,” Brown said. “For them to take off [after turnovers] and turn it into a track meet was difficult to defend. It really was. [Turnovers are] the launching pad to a lot of our problems.”
The Sixers especially had a tough time defending starters Bradley Beal and Trevor Ariza, and reserve Otto Porter.
Beal, an All-Star shooting guard, finished with 34 points while making six of 11 three-pointers one night after scoring 28 points. Meanwhile, Porter and Ariza both had drastic improvements over Tuesday night. Porter had 23 points on 8-for-15 shooting. The swingman had 11 points on just 4-for-10 shooting on Tuesday. Small forward Ariza had 17 points after scoring just two on 1-for-7 shooting the previous night.
“It was a bad game,” Embiid said. “We took the night off, defensively.”
The Wizards opened up a commanding 26-point cushion (88-62) on Ariza’s layup with 3:53 left in the third quarter. The Sixers got within 12 points (102-90) on Butler’s foul shots with 6:42 to play. But that was as close as they would get.
Butler had 23 points and nine rebounds, while Simmons finished with 15 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists. Landry Shamet had just five points after producing a game- and career-high 29 points on Tuesday. The reserve shooting guard briefly left the game in the fourth quarter after being poked in the eye.
The Sixers were without JJ Redick for the second straight game due to lower-back tightness. The loss dropped dropped the Sixers to 1-5 in the second games of back-to-backs.
“For whatever reason, we do not play well in back-to-back games,” Brown said. “You look at our record. Everybody can go different places and find reasons for that. But this is a fact.”
Brown gave the Wizards credit for their energy. But he didn’t feel that the Sixers were sharp.