WASHINGTON - During a moving halftime tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. at the Verizon Center yesterday afternoon, the mostly packed arena fell solemnly silent as snippets of the "I Have a Dream" speech were played and a choir sang at midcourt.
The play between the 76ers and Washington Wizards didn't bring about much more of a vocal reaction, as for the visitors, it was the same old, same old with them struggling to hit outside shots, a few too many turnovers at bad times and an inability to get defensive stops when needed. It all added up to the seventh Sixers loss in eight games, 107-99.
The win improved the Wizards to 20-20, giving them a chance to get over .500 in their next game for the first time since being 2-1 to begin the 2009-10 season.
The Sixers dropped to 13-28.
Breaking free from a slump can be one of the more difficult things to do during a season, and at the midway point of this one, the Sixers are finding that out. Once again, they struggled shooting from long range, making only four of their 18 three-pointers. Over the past three games, they've been able to convert only eight of 57 from beyond the arc (14 percent). And when your inside game isn't exactly a cure for offensive woes, losing patterns such as the one they are mired in are sure to arise.
And while they were able to trim a 21-point deficit to eight late in the fourth quarter, they couldn't capitalize on a couple of chances to get even closer, and lost for the 12th consecutive time on the road to an Eastern Conference opponent.
"You feel like you're a made three, two consecutive free throws, one extra effort in transition defense, a [get back] where something's got to happen when we pay attention to the ball and a guard has got to crack back," coach Brett Brown said. "Just small things away from really stealing a win or making it a winnable game with 30 seconds left.
"I thought defensively we were decent in the second half, I thought we competed. It's just when you start looking at struggling to make a three. Look at the numbers over the past three games. When you're struggling making a free throw [21-for-31]. We did a pretty good job of not turning it over . I thought, for the most part, we were OK. That's a hot team. They've been playing really good basketball, and John Wall is growing into a really elite player."
While the Sixers have struggled offensively of late, having scored more than 100 points only once in the past eight games, rookie Michael Carter-Williams nearly carried them to a win with his offense, as he scored 31 points. Thaddeus Young, who was averaging only 11.7 points over the previous six games, scored 18, and Hollis Thompson came off the bench for 13. Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes (16 rebounds) scored 11 each.
"I was just trying to make plays," said Carter-Williams, who also had six rebounds and five assists. "I was just trying to do anything for us to try and stay in the game and try to make a late comeback. I was trying to find my teammates out there and be patient, and that just led to some open looks. I struggled the past few games, and I think I was trying to force the issue a little bit. In this game, I was more relaxed and I was taking what was open. If the lane was there, I was going to score and be strong, and, if my teammates were open, I was looking to give them the ball."
Many times it, worked, but not enough, and another addition was made to the right side of the win-loss column.
"We got into it more in the second half just being aggressive and bringing a lot of intensity to the game," Young said. "But we got down too much in the first half, and it was too hard to keep ourselves in rhythm for the rest of the game."
It was hard for anyone in the arena to find a rhythm, it seemed. Fans included. Though in the end, they left with the possibility of a winning record for their team for the first time in a long time, while the Sixers desperately will search for answers.
Brett Brown said he's been impressed with center Dewayne Dedmon during his 7-day stint with the team thus far. Dedmon had five rebounds in 13 minutes yesterday. After signing him to a 10-day contract last Tuesday, the team must decide by Thursday whether to give him another one. "I'm happy with the way things have been going," Dedmon said. "I'm just trying to show what I can do by staying within the offense. What I do helps out. It's just a process. At the end of the day we'll see what happens, just going day-by-day" . . . The team was scheduled to practice in Washington today before heading to New York for a game against the Knicks tomorrow, but the expected snow might change those plans.