76ERS 102, WIZARDS 82
Maybe the people who joined the Washington Wizards players for a series of motivational speakers Tuesday afternoon at MCI Center got more out of the session than the Wizards.
The Wizards, after playing a relatively competitive first half against the Atlantic Division-leading Philadelphia 76ers, appeared to lose their motivation, interest, concern and every other intangible teams need to be competitive. As a result the 76ers pulled away in the third quarter and coasted to a 102-82 victory over the hapless Wizards in front of 14,923 at MCI Center last night.
The Wizards’ effort was so bad that coach Leonard Hamilton pulled his starters with a little more than six minutes left in the game and the Wizards down by 16 points. On the verge of another blowout, the Wizards were reduced to complaining about the referees’ calls. The Wizards shot just 39.8 percent from the field, and they got to the free throw line just 16 times. Meanwhile, Philadelphia took twice as many free throws.
“That’s going to happen all year because they don’t respect us,” Wizards point guard Rod Strickland said. “We’re not going to get any calls. I know there were a couple of things I did in the first half and didn’t get any call. I saw [Allen Iverson] do the same thing, get the same contact and get the calls. We’re not going to get the respect all year.”
If the Wizards haven’t bottomed out yet, they are close. Going back to April, the Wizards have gone 30 games without winning any back-to-back, and their eight-game losing streak is the longest in the NBA. It is the franchise’s longest since the Wizards dropped 13 straight in 1995.
On Tuesday the Wizards, along with 20,000 other people, listened to always upbeat motivational speaker Tony Robbins. If only Robbins could rebound.
President of basketball operations Michael Jordan was at the game for the fourth time this season, but he has yet to see his new team win a game. Jordan watched the game from one of the Wizards’ offices but left the arena with no official comment.
He did look back at reporters and say, “You saw the same things I did,” while putting his hands over his head in an obvious moment of frustration.
And there were many:
Juwan Howard finished with just seven points. In his last three games, Howard has scored a combined 24 points, one less than Philadelphia’s Iverson had last night.
Tyrone Nesby, Howard and Rod Strickland, all starters last night, shot a combined 8-for-31 from the field, and as a team the Wizards made just 35 of 88 shots (39.8 percent).
Washington had 12 of its shots blocked, and in two games this season against Philadelphia it has had 23 shots blocked.
The Wizards turned the ball over 23 times leading to 30 points.
“They’re a very good team, and they do a lot of things well,” Wizards coach Leonard Hamilton said. “They did a great job on the offensive boards. We had position many times, and they still went and got the ball with their athleticism and quickness. We didn’t do a good job of putting our bodies on them and keeping them off the glass.”
Iverson finished with a game-high 25 points, four assists and five steals. Center Theo Ratliff scored 12 points, blocked six shots and grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds. Reserve guard Aaron McKie finished with 16 points.
The Sixers held a 13-point lead in the first half, but Washington cut it to 51-48 early in the third quarter. However, the Sixers used a 16-2 run to take a 67-50 lead and effectively kill the Wizards already fleeting hopes of victory.
“They just went on a run, and we didn’t have the energy to match them,” Hamilton said. “That’s it.”
Felipe Lopez led the Wizards with 16 points, and Jahidi White added 14 points and nine rebounds in the loss.
The Wizards got off to a decent start. Lopez got hot early he scored 10 points in the first quarter as Washington built a 10-2 lead. But it didn’t take Philadelphia long to make that lead vanish with a 13-2 run.
However, all that energy that was on display in the first quarter, which ended with the Wizards down by two, vanished without a trace at the start of the second quarter. Washington gave up nine unanswered points at the start of the quarter, which was part of 14-4 Philadelphia run that gave the Sixers a 41-29 lead with 5:41 left before halftime.