WASHINGTON - It seems like the 76ers are destined to lose no matter how hard they play.

Monday night was a prime example.

The Sixers played their best basketball since the all-star break and had the Washington Wizards in a headlock for much of the second half. But they still ended up losing, 116-108, at the Verizon Center.

It was all because of John Wall.

The Wizards point guard scored 16 of his game-high 37 points in the fourth quarter. Perhaps his biggest points came during Washington's 16-0 run that gave it a 102-93 lead with 5 minutes, 43 seconds left. The all-star scored eight of the 16 and gave the Wizards the lead for good.

The 6-foot-4, 198-pounder was fouled as he sank a layup. The Wizards led, 95-93, with 7:01 left after he converted the foul shot.

Unable to stop Wall and Co., the Sixers dropped to 8-52 for the season. It was their ninth straight loss and 13th in 14 games.

"It's naturally frustrating as a human to go out there and play your butt off. And certain mistakes really helped them close out that game," said Nerlens Noel, whose squad was outrebounded, 53-32. "You really have to do a better job of the full game plan and follow through with it."

The Sixers were without standout rookie center Jahlil Okafor and key reserve Hollis Thompson. They also started Isaiah Canaan in place of Nik Stauskas at shooting guard. Okafor suffered a bruised right shin Sunday after bumping into Canaan's knee during a 130-116 road setback in Orlando.

"We are just trying to be smart with him," coach Brett Brown said.

The Sixers will have an off-day on Tuesday. Brown expects Okafor to be ready to play against the Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday night at the Wells Fargo Center.

Thompson missed his second consecutive game with an upper respiratory infection. Stauskas finished with 10 points on 4 for 11 shooting in 31 minutes, 56 seconds. He was supposed to be on a 25-minute restriction.

Ish Smith led the Sixers with 25 points and seven assists.

Carl Landry had one of his best performances as a Sixer. The seldom-used power forward finished with 15 points on 6 for 8 shooting in 18 minutes off the bench. Thirteen of his points came before intermission.

Washington (29-30) led, 60-48, at the half. But the Sixers got back into the game with one of their best second-half starts of the season.

They closed the gap to 66-63 on Noel's three-pointer with 8:02 left in the third. It was the 6-foot-11 center's first career attempt from that distance. The Sixers took their first lead since the 7:15 mark of the first quarter as Noel's dunk over Marcin Gortat gave them a 67-66 advantage with 7:15 left in third.

Canaan and Stauskas sandwiched three-pointers around a Smith dunk as the Sixers capped their 26-6 run to take a 74-66 lead with 5:02 remaining in the quarter.

But Wall took over in the fourth.

"I think that his physical approach on attacking the rim and taking a hit and still having the body control and toughness to finish and get and-ones is remarkable," Brown said. "I mean, that is a physical, big guard. It's Russell Westbrook-type.

"He's very gifted. He's an all-star for a reason."

Brown was called for a technical foul with 3:07 left in the third quarter. Wizards power forward Markieff Morris, a Philadelphia native, received one with 11:24 before intermission. Morris finished with 16 points and 13 rebounds in his first start with the Wizards since being acquired at the trade deadline in a deal from the Phoenix Suns.

Gortat had 18 points and a game-high 20 rebounds.

kpompey@phillynews.com

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