- The Washington Times - Friday, January 13, 2012

PHILADELPHIA — The Washington Wizards knew exactly what kind of opponent they were facing in the Philadelphia 76ers, after losing a home-and-home preseason series by a combined total of 32 points.

On Friday night, in their first regular-season meeting, it was nothing short of a massacre, as the Wizards lost 120-89 at Wells Fargo Center for their worst setback of the season. The loss dropped the Wizards to a league-worst 1-10.

The Atlantic Division-leading 76ers have been carving up opponents, beating them by an average of 24 points so far this season. Philadelphia started the game shooting a blistering 88.9 percent in the first quarter and barely slowed down, outscoring the Wizards 38-18 in the third quarter to blow the game wide open. 76ers guard Jodie Meeks had a game-high (and tied a career-high) 26 points on 10 of 11 shooting with six 3-pointers.

“They [the 76ers] made a bunch of shots. They went on a stretch where they made eight or nine shots in a row,” Wizards coach Flip Saunders said. “The guys that I put in in the fourth quarter, they came in and competed. They played the right way and moved the ball. We shot 56 percent and made some easy plays. That’s how we have to play for 48 minutes.”

Once again, the Wizards bench outplayed their starters, who play stagnant at best and selfish at worst.

“We’ve got to make plays for each other,” Roger Mason Jr. said. “We’re getting closer as a team, but we’ve got to show it on the court. It can’t be one guy, it’s got to be a team. They [the 76ers] are a model of how we should be sharing the basketball. They have fun playing together, they pass the basketball, and it’s fun to play that way.”

Center JaVale McGee turned in a team-worst and season-worst 4-for-13 performance, scoring nine points, as he took a plethora of bad, ill-advised shots. On a night when the rest of the Wizards improved their shooting percentage, shooting 44.4 percent as a team, they were just no match for the 76ers precise, efficient offensive attack.

“We take bad shots and get a lot of turnovers against a team like this that’s athletic and fast, and they like to score on the break and can finish on the break, its tough to stop them,” John Wall said.

The Wizards and 76ers will square off again Saturday at Verizon Center in a back-to-back, and barring the fatigue factor, it’s hard to imagine a different outcome. The 76ers are also one of the league’s youngest teams, with a average age of 26.3, to the Wizards‘ 25.0.

“It’s a good thing in our book because they they put up a statement tonight,” Wall said of facing the 76ers again in less than 24 hours.

Rashard Lewis, who led the team with 16 points, had the same assessment of the Wizards‘ performance as fellow seasoned veteran Mason Jr.

“Seems like some nights we play hard. Some nights, we play selfish,” Lewis said. “I thought tonight, the only time we played together was in the fourth quarter. You can say it over and over again. I guess you’ve got to beat it in their head. We got to play with each other. It’s not a one-on-one game. It’s five-on-five.”