WASHINGTON - Really, the 76ers were in a no-win situation tonight against the not-so-good Washington Wizards.
A win was expected, a loss would have been worrisome.
But the Sixers did win, 109-103, at the Verizon Center.
The win was their third straight, all three coming under the crossed arms and watchful eye of new head coach Tony DiLeo. He remains undefeated as Sixers coach with wins over the Wizards sandwiched around a victory over the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Sixers improved to 12-14. The Wizards dropped to 4-20. And the Sixers did so without their leading scorer, Elton Brand, who remained in Philadelphia rehabilitating the right shoulder he dislocated Wednesday night against the Bucks.
Tonight's game was the first in a month of games without Brand, whose absence is not just statistical. It stagnates the Sixers' plans to incorporate Brand's half-court game into their up-tempo style.
But, like patchwork, the Sixers managed to score just enough points and make just enough free throws tonight.
And, with Brand missing, reserve guard Lou Williams scored a career-high 26 points.
There was a day between the Sixers' previous game, Wednesday against the Bucks, and tonight's against the Wizards, but Williams played as if Thursday never interrupted his flow.
Williams watched the first 10 minutes, 27 seconds of the tonight's game. Then he stepped onto the Verizon Center court and made his first five shots. Williams scored 18 in the first half after scoring a team-high 25 points on Wednesday night.
Swingman Andre Iguodala scored 18 points, and power forward Thaddeus Young, starting in place of Brand, also scored 18 points. Rookie Marreese Speights played 22 minutes off the bench and scored a career-high 17 points.
The Sixers shot an unheard of 56.8 percent in the first half: 21 for 37. The two things keeping the Sixers from a lead - they trailed 57-56 at the break - were eight turnovers, off of which the Wizards scored 14 points, and a 19-15 rebounding deficit.
Entering tonight's game, the Sixers were tied with the Sacramento Kings as the NBA's worst three-point shooting team. But against the Wizards, they finished 9 for 21, a more-than respectable 42.9 percent.
In the week since president and general manager Ed Stefanski fired former coach Maurice Cheeks, the universal line coming from the Sixers was that transition basketball was still the backbone of this team.
The Sixers scored 14 fast-break points in the first half and 19 by the end of the third quarter. By the end of the game, the Sixers had scored 25 points on the break, good for just under a quarter of their total.
The Sixers clinged to their one-possession lead for much of the fourth quarter, neither team able to push the other farther than arms-length away.
In the final minute, with foul shots from Iguodala and Young, the Sixers managed the final margin.