WASHINGTON - With a few more struggling performances like this for the 76ers, some of their desired NBA draft prospects will definitely be there for the taking.
A 106-93 setback to the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night at the Verizon Center was another step in the right direction toward securing a quality lottery pick. The Sixers remain in third place in the race to the bottom behind the cellar-dwelling New York Knicks and the Minnesota Timberwolves with six games remaining.
If the season ended Wednesday, the Sixers (18-58) would have a 15.6 percent chance to nab the first pick at the draft lottery. Their chances will increase to 19.9 percent should they finish with the second-worst record and 25 percent with the worst.
The Sixers struggled offensively in the early going while catching the Wizards at the wrong time.
Washington (42-33) hasn't been playing well of late. The Wizards were in search of some rejuvenation heading into the playoffs. They also wanted to avenge an 89-81 setback to the Sixers at the Wells Fargo Center on Feb. 22.
"We got jumped," Sixers coach Brett Brown said. "And I think this is a fantastic experience for our guys. Like we knew this was going to be the landscape, but it's still hard to navigate it. It's still hard to correct it.
"It starts with our defense. But that was the environment we came into."
The Wizards shot 57.9 percent in a game in which the Sixers could not defend Marcin Gortat.
The 6-foot-11 center went 10 for 11 from the field. He finished with 23 points and 14 rebounds for his 20th double-double.
Bradley Beal had 20 points, five rebounds and five assists for Washington. John Wall added 13 points and a game-high 15 assists.
Ish Smith paced the Sixers with 23 points. Nerlens Noel had 14 points and 10 rebounds for his 18th double-double.
However, Isaiah Canaan suffered a right ankle sprain with about 4 minutes, 44 seconds left. The reserve point guard finished with 18 points.
Canaan was on crutches after the game.
"We know nothing that we really can talk about," Brown said. "We are going to have to learn more."
The Sixers probably won't supplant the woeful Knicks (14-61) for the league's worst record even if Canaan is unable to play the remainder of the season. However, they could catch the Timberwolves (16-59) for the second-worst mark.
On paper, their only remaining winnable game comes against the Knicks on Sunday at Madison Square Garden. The Sixers' other remaining games are against the Charlotte Hornets (Saturday), the Wizards (April 8), Chicago Bulls (April 11), Milwaukee Bucks (April 13) and Miami Heat (April 15).
Like the Wizards, the Bulls have already clinched an Eastern Conference postseason spot. However, the Hornets, Bucks and Heat are still battling for a playoff position. So don't expect those squads to take the Sixers lightly.
The Wizards didn't take them lightly in their second win in seven games. Washington dominated from the start and took a 65-42 cushion into halftime. The Wizards extended their lead to 34 points (91-57) with a minute left in the third quarter.
Jason Richardson returned to action after missing Monday's game with left knee swelling and soreness. He missed both of his shots.
"We put ourselves in a big hole early," Noel said. "I think we should have came out swinging and done a better job of protecting the paint. They had too many paint points (30) in the first and second quarter."