WASHINGTON - When you have a team trying to gear up and hit on all cylinders for the playoffs going against a team attempting to head into a long summer on a positive note, there undoubtedly is a little disparity in incentives.
The game Wednesday night played out the way you'd think it would have, with the playoff-bound Wizards, who are getting healthy and in the midst of a nice five-game homestand, easily handling the 18-win 76ers, 106-93, at the Verizon Center.
The Wizards (42-33) are looking to improve their Eastern Conference seeding, where they are mired in the fifth spot, the Sixers and coach Brett Brown hope to finish the remaining games with enough positives to carry over into what will be an important summer of growth for many on this roster.
There weren't a lot of positives. Washington clicked everywhere offensively, particularly in the first half, when it converted 69 percent from the floor (29-for-42) and dominated the boards (24-12). That led to a 23-point lead at the break and, ultimately, the easy win.
"If you sort of connect the dots with what's going on now, they haven't been playing well, and they're now going into the playoffs," Brown said. "We had just beat them on our home court not that long ago, and they're good. They go to the second round of the conference playoffs last year and so they're trying to find this rejuvination, this energy trying to get ready for the playoffs and we got jumped."
It could have been a lot worse had the Sixers not outscored Washington, 31-13, in the fourth to make the score look a little more respectable than the game actually was.
Brown's hope is that his team can continue its improved defensive play to finish out the season, but it just wasn't there Wednesday night.
"I see that we're 10th now in [defensive efficiency] with [six] games to go and we've won 18 games," Brown said. "Think of that. To hold that trophy at this late stage of the year and only win 18 games, but you still find a toughness in the ability to defend. We've hung our hats on that, and they've delivered on that. We have a goal, a quiet goal, of trying to move up into the single digits and end the season like we said we wanted to — playing way better defense and building the program around that — and I'm proud of our guys for staying together with some of the cornerstones that we put out at the start of the year as our compass."
Ish Smith led the Sixers with 23 points, while shooting 11-for-17 from the floor. Isaiah Canaan scored 18, while Hollis Thompson had 16.
For Washington, Marcin Gortat collected 23 points and 14 rebounds, Bradley Beal scored 20 and John Wall contributed 13 points and 15 assists.
"We should have come out swinging and done a better job of protecting the paint," said Nerlens Noel, who finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds. "They had much too many paint points in the first and second quarter. But I'm proud of our fight in the fourth quarter and not giving up.
"He [Gortat] just got open and guys found him, and we have to do a better job of locating who we're guarding. The whole defense overall just wasn't on point."
The Sixers' starting front line of Noel and Furkan Aldemir couldn't match the physicality of Wizards big men Nene and Gortat. And when they were helped on the inside, Washington was able to drain wide-open jumpers all night and got the lead as high as 34 in the third quarter.
The defensive growth that the Sixers have shown all season took a kick in the backside. The offense was no better. If you take away Smith's shooting, the rest of the team made only 25 of 74 (33.8 percent).
As is their style, though, the Sixers battled to the bitter end. A pull-up three by Hollis Thompson got the lead down to 15 at 100-85 with 5 minutes, 43 seconds to go. It was the closest the Sixers had been since the 4:46 mark of the second quarter. But the Wizards reinserted some of their starters, restored order, and coasted to the win.
After missing a three-point attempt late in the fourth quarter, Canaan went to the floor in a heap. He tried to get back in the action, but had to call a timeout before he left the floor with a right ankle injury. He was on crutches after the game and had a brief conversation with Brown, who appeared to be dismayed by the news. The coach said it was too early to discuss what the injury was, however.