WASHINGTON — The 76ers began Thursday’s game against the Washington Wizards at Capital One Arena as if they would finish off their opponent by halftime.
The Wizards (7-13) are a struggling team, destined for the lottery. In theory, they don’t have as much to play for as the Sixers, but one couldn’t tell that was the situation. After jumping to an 11-point lead in the first quarter, the Sixers faded during Thursday night during a 119-113 loss to the Wizards.
The Sixers, 10-0 at home, are just 5-7 on the road. And that made for a long train ride back to Philadelphia.
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After the loss, the Sixers were peppered with the same questions and had trouble searching for answers.
The question: Why do you struggle so much on the road?
Yes, it’s difficult to win away from home, but conference contenders are supposed to be able to do that, especially against teams with losing records. Of the top six Eastern Conference teams, the Sixers entered the weekend as the only one with a losing road record.
When coach Brett Brown was asked why the team struggles on the road and plays so well at home, he answered, “I have no idea.”
Joel Embiid, who had 26 points and 21 rebounds but eight turnovers, tried to tackle the question more thoroughly.
“I don’t know,” Embiid said. “We should have the same energy on the road that we have at home, so we have to correct that.”
There are other things the Sixers have to correct, such as turnovers. They had 21 Thursday, compared to 12 for Washington.
The Sixers also allowed too many open shooters, and as Embiid said, there just wasn’t the sustained energy on either end of the court.
“We had a lot of breakdowns in what we were doing,” said Al Horford, who had 11 points and five rebounds. “It was definitely frustrating to see that, not being able to execute the way we wanted and continuing to let them have their way all night.”
Home teams often have their way, but not usually when they are outmanned as the Wizards were against the Sixers.
Asked about the road struggles, Tobias Harris, who had a game-high 33 points, was almost as stumped as his coach.
“We just haven’t been able to get wins right now,” he said.
Wizards coach Scott Brooks got his start in the NBA with the Sixers, playing his first two seasons after being an undrafted rookie out of Cal-Irvine. Before Thursday’s game vs. the Sixers, he was asked about his best moment, and before answering, he feigned anger over an omission that he pointed out.
“It is surprising to me that they haven’t retired my number,” he quipped. “[Charles] Barkley got his, and I thought I was right there below him.”
For a few months as a rookie in 1988-89 season, Brooks lived with Barkley as he got accustomed to NBA life.
“Being able to live with Charles for a couple of months, my mom was a little worried,” he said, laughing. "He kept me safe, and it was a great time. Those two years were incredible. I was disappointed I was traded.”
Brooks went on to play 10 NBA seasons. He said his best Sixers memory came before he competed in his first NBA regular-season game.
“The best moment was when I was told I made the team,” he said. “That was probably the best moment of my career. I was an undrafted rookie, and I think there were seven rounds at the time.”
Actually, there were only three rounds, but the thrill of the moment has remained with Brooks, 54, all these years. He has nothing but good memories.
“The fans were amazing and we had a great team, a fun team, a very entertaining team," he said. "I thought [coach] Jimmy Lynam handled all the interesting characters we had.”
Saturday: Cleveland at Sixers, 7:30 p.m., NBC Sports Philadelphia, NBA TV
Sunday: Toronto at Sixers, 6 p.m., NBC Sports Philadelphia
Tuesday: Denver at Sixers, 7 p.m., NBC Sports Philadelphia
Thursday: Sixers at Boston, 8 p.m. TNT
Dec. 13: Pelicans at Sixers, 7 p.m. NBC Sports Philadelphia
Question: How do games like tonight keep happening? The Sixers had two nights off and lost to a 6-13 team down two centers. The Sixers lost to a team that lost by 20+ to the Lakers and Clippers (Clippers scored 150 points). Two teams that the Sixers think they can play with.
The Sixers shot 53.2% from the field, 46.4% from 3 point land, and still lost to the Wizards, with more rebounds and more blocked shots. Simple reason: turnovers. 21. They are losing games this year the same way that they lost games two-three years ago. When is the team and specifically, Brett Brown, going to be called out on this? They have probably the best starting five in basketball. — Matt Davis via email
Answer: Thanks for the question, Matt. You can tell you have a lot of passion. While we hear criticism of Brown after virtually every loss, and it doesn’t get worse than the one to the Wizards, how about holding the players accountable?
Embiid had been doing a decent job recognizing double teams, but he didn’t against the Wizards. And what are you going to do if you are the coach? Bench Ben Simmons (7 turnovers) or Embiid?
For now, we will give Brown the benefit of the doubt, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have a case. It’s just that the coach is too easy a target and the two best players have to play like they are the best, or games such as Thursday’s will continue to happen.