WASHINGTON (AP)The Washington Wizards dug themselves quite a hole this month.
Now, they hope they’re finally healthy enough to climb back into the playoff picture.
”We talked about it as a group – we’ve got to make up some ground,” coach Wes Unseld Jr. said before Tuesday night’s game against Philadelphia. ”There’s got to be a sense of urgency as far as how we play.”
The Wizards seem to have taken that message to heart lately. Kristaps Porzingis scored 24 points, Bradley Beal added 19 and Washington ended the 76ers’ eight-game winning streak with a 116-111 victory.
The Wizards withstood a 48-point effort by Joel Embiid and a 26-point, 13-assist performance by James Harden. Washington has rebounded from a 10-game losing streak by winning three of its last four, with victories over Phoenix, Sacramento and Philadelphia.
”That’s a good team. They’re better than what their record says,” Embiid said. ”But that’s not an excuse to lose against them. We just didn’t have it tonight.”
The Wizards’ improved health may have been short-lived. Beal missed the final 4:17 with what Unseld described as left hamstring soreness. It was a strain of the right hamstring that caused him to miss a couple weeks earlier this month.
The 76ers cut a 16-point deficit to one late in the game but couldn’t overtake Washington. There were some ugly shot attempts by the Wizards without Beal on the floor, but they made enough plays defensively to hold on.
Embiid cut the lead to one when he threw down an alley-oop dunk from Harden, but Porzingis made a 3-pointer to make it 111-107. With 2:05 remaining, Embiid missed the first of two free throws – his only miss in 14 attempts from the line.
With the score 111-108, Embiid fell while driving and lost the ball out of bounds with 1:29 to play. About a minute later he again had the ball down three, and this time Washington’s Deni Avdija reached in and knocked it away.
”I had a bad last two minutes,” Embiid said. ”That was on me.”
The Wizards turned the ball over nine times in the first quarter and still led 32-30 despite 16 points by Embiid. Beal had 11 in the period.
”The biggest issue for me tonight was the turnovers,” Unseld said. ”It’s an area that we talked about pregame – we’ve been pretty good the last four to five games. They do a good job. They’re handsy, they’re physical.”
Washington took better care of the ball in the second, and the Wizards took their biggest lead of the game at 74-58 when Porzingis got a friendly bounce on a 3-pointer early in the third.
It was the sixth time this season that Embiid reached 40 points in a game.
Avdija was back after missing two games with lower back soreness. He scored seven points in 20:01.
Rui Hachimura (14 points) was in his third game back for the Wizards following an ankle injury. Porzingis was in his second game back from a non-COVID-19 illness, and Delon Wright was in his second game back from a hamstring strain.
76ers: Philadelphia was without Tyrese Maxey, who has been recovering from a broken left foot and hasn’t played in over a month. … Tobias Harris scored 15 points. … The 76ers went 6 of 31 from 3-point range.
Wizards: Washington used 10 players, and they all played at least 14:23 and scored at least seven points. … Kyle Kuzma scored 14 points. … The Wizards finished with 18 turnovers.
76ers: At New Orleans on Friday night.
Wizards: Host Phoenix on Wednesday night.
Follow Noah Trister at https://twitter.com/noahtrister
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