WASHINGTON - Three straight wins.

Ignore the opponents. Because, right now, for these 76ers, the jerseys on their defenders might as well be bleached, the arena name scrubbed from the hardwood.

After the week they've had - fired coach, injured Elton Brand - wins should be collected thankfully, without asterisks.

And last night's 109-103 victory over the Washington Wizards is one such win.

Ignore the Wizards' 4-20 record. Ignore the deadened atmosphere inside the Verizon Center. The Sixers, like patchwork to a torn quilt, did just enough to save this game.

The man who did the most was reserve guard Lou Williams, who scored a career-high 26 points, three of which came in the first half on what looked like a fadeaway from the corner as the shot clock ran down.

"You see me play in high school?" Williams asked after the game. "I can make four of those in one game, but I haven't made one of those in years."

There was a day between the Sixers' previous game, Wednesday against the Bucks, and last night's against the Wizards, but Williams played as if Thursday never happened. He blended the two seamlessly.

He has scored 51 points in two games.

Williams watched the first 10 minutes, 27 seconds of last night's game. Then he walked to the scorer's table, checked in, and made his first five shots. Williams scored 18 in the first half - 14 in the second quarter - after scoring a team-high 25 points on Wednesday night.

New head coach Tony DiLeo, who replaced Maurice Cheeks exactly one week ago, is 3-0. Under the crossed arms and watchful eyes of DiLeo, the Sixers have twice defeated the Wizards and once the Bucks to improve to 12-14. They play the Indiana Pacers tonight at the Wachovia Center.

"He lays his principles down then rolls the ball out and tells us, 'Let's go make it happen,' " Williams said of DiLeo's coaching style.

Williams' important off-the-bench role was one of a trio. Rookie Marreese Speights scored a career-high 17 points, and little-used guard Kareem Rush hit two three-pointers.

"I feel like I have to go out there and play harder because we have a man down," Speights said of filling the void left by Brand.

"We're at the point we know everyone needs to step up their games," Rush said. "We definitely need these wins right now."

Swingman Andre Iguodala scored 18 points, and power forward Thaddeus Young, starting in place of Brand, also scored 18 points.

"We have to go out there and get it right now, whether it's ugly or not," Iguodala said.

And they needed each contribution because Brand, their leading scorer, remained in Philadelphia rehabilitating the right shoulder he dislocated Wednesday night against the Bucks.

Last night's 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.

And so, with Brand 125 miles north, the Sixers put on a display of what has been the universal line coming from the organization: Transition basketball remains the backbone of the team. Nearly a quarter of their total points - 25 - came on the fastbreak last night.

The Sixers clung to their one-possession lead for the final two minutes of the fourth quarter, never able to push the Wizards more than an arm's length away.

Finally, in the last minute, with foul shots from Iguodala and Young, the Sixers managed the final margin.

"This gives us confidence, gives us momentum," DiLeo said. "Guys are finding a little more their role as I envision it."

Kate Fagan blogs about the 76ers and has frequent online chats at http://go.philly.com/dsix.EndText