Sixers can’t get over slow start in 117-98 loss to Washington Wizards

WASHINGTON — The Monday afternoon energy inside Capital One Arena was as cold as the winter storm that hit the district the night before, until Kyle Kuzma took the ball up the key and throws a one-handed dunk on Joel Embiid to briefly ignite the home crowd.

The Sixers have never had their moment with this level of enthusiasm. They couldn’t overcome a slow start in a 117-98 loss to the Wizards, splitting their two-game road trip over the holiday weekend.

It was the type of loss that often accompanies the January heatwaves of the NBA regular season. But it was a surprise for a Sixers side that entered Monday as the winners of nine of their last 10 games, including an inspired second-half effort in a Saturday night comeback win at Miami on Night Two. consecutive.

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The Sixers (25-18) started slow and could never gain the traction needed to make a meaningful run. Their second-half push came when Tyrese Maxey cut the Wizards’ lead to 91-85 in the first minute of the fourth quarter, but Washington responded with a 20-5 run, including a rocking Montrezl Harrell and a dunk that rebuilt the lead to 111-90 with less than six minutes left.

Embiid anchored the Sixers offense again, finishing with 32 points (10 of 20 from the floor and 9 of 10 from the free throw line) and eight rebounds to extend his road game streak of 30 or more points at 11.

The Sixers struggled at both ends of the field early, missing 10 of their first 15 shots while allowing the Wizards to shoot 62.5 percent in the first quarter.

Washington used an 11-0 run, capped by a Kuzma layup, to create its early advantage. The Wizards made three of their six three-point attempts in the first quarter, scored 18 points in the paint and didn’t commit a turnover.

The Sixers’ best offense in the first was Embiid who scored seven points from the free throw line. He drew three early fouls on starting big man Daniel Gafford and then a quick call on Thomas Bryant.

Still, Bryant was an immediate spark for Washington, going 3 of 5 from the floor in seven minutes and adding a jumper at the buzzer.

Bryant was the anchor of a productive Wizards bench that outscored the Sixers’ reserves, 63-27.

Washington also got contributions from Harrell (18 points, seven rebounds), Corey Kispert (11 points) and Rui Hachimura (11 points, five rebounds).

Georges Niang (seven points, four rebounds) was the most effective Sixers reserve. Andre Drummond also had seven rebounds in 15 minutes. Isaiah Joe provided a brief spark late in the third, when he buried a corner three, recovered a steal and threw a one-and-one to cut the Wizards’ lead to 86-77.

The rapid rise of Charlie Brown Jr. remains an important recent story. Along with Matisse Thybulle (shoulder) and Danny Green (hip) again, Brown was the Sixers’ first sub of the game.

His immediate task: Guard All-Star Bradley Beal, smash a block from behind in the third quarter. Brown grabbed a team-high nine rebounds in 23 minutes. He shared the floor with the starters for much of the second quarter.

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He also took a season-high seven shots, but only made two of those attempts. He grounded the ball for a spinning layup in the first quarter. He completed a comeback after Embiid failed in the second. But he grimaced after missing a wide-open look under the basket at the end of the second, then screamed obscenity in frustration as he returned to the bench for a timeout.

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