WASHINGTON -- The game was there for the Sixers' taking Sunday night -- if only for one more stop or one more made basket.
With less than two minutes to play, the Sixers led by three and had the ball.
It was at that point Evan Turner was called for an offensive foul and John Wall worked his magic.
The third-year player, who has guided the Wizards to a 14-11 record since coming back from injury, scored the final six points of the game and came up with a huge block on his 2010 draft peer, Turner, to ensure the 90-87 win for Washington (see Instant Replay).
It was especially disappointing because the Sixers had battled back from a 10-point deficit only to have a win snatched from their grip for their tenth straight road loss.
“We had some bad breaks and they converted on them,” Jrue Holiday said. “It is obviously tough coming back like that and losing the game. John was like he is. He always makes something happen and he got to the free-throw line and made a big shot. Obviously, we are disappointed because we really wanted to win that game.”
“He did what he was supposed to do,” Damien Wilkins said of Wall. “He is a name. He is the franchise guy here and since he has been back, they have been playing pretty well. He did his job.”
Wall finished with 16 points, six assists and five rebounds. He and Martell Webster tied for the game high in points.
Before Wall hit the final basket of the night -- a 20-foot, contested, pull-up jumper -- the Sixers, trailing by one, opted not to foul. Doug Collins saw the difference between the shot clock and the game clock was 4.9 seconds, plenty of time to get off a shot that would have won the game prior to Wall’s jumper and still tie it even after his heroics.
“I told our guys they should be disappointed because we had a chance here after digging ourselves a 10-point hole to climb out of it and have the ball with a chance to win that game,” Collins said. “But strange things have happened to us down here ever since I have been here.”
Collins was referring to two overtime losses against the Wizards during the 2009-10 season. In the first, a last-second shot by little-known Cartier Martin sent the game into overtime. In the second, Jrue Holiday fouled John Wall at halfcourt in the closing seconds, giving him three free throws to force the extra session and another Sixers loss.
“It seems like playing down here [at] end of games hasn’t been good to us,” said Spencer Hawes, who finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds.
The Sixers did get very good production from their bench on a night when they needed it. The starters, minus Hawes, looked tired, playing on a back-to-back and their sixth contest in nine days.
Dorell Wright led the Sixers with 15 points and Damien Wilkins played 23 solid minutes, guarding one of the best rookies in the NBA this year, Bradley Beal.
The Sixers are now 23-35 with 24 games to go. Despite the many disappointments this season has brought, the players say they are committed to still playing hard.
“Winning cures everything and losing makes everything worse,” Hawes said. “When you wake up in the morning, you are in the worst mood and you don’t really want to see anybody. It does make it difficult, but at the same time, you can’t sit around feeling bad about yourself because that doesn’t help you turn it around. You have to have the right attitude and right mindset or else it really gets ugly.”
“Obviously, the season is coming to a close and we are in the home stretch, but every game for me still matters,” Wilkins said. “I fought too hard to get here to take any of these games and this opportunity for granted. Hopefully that holds the same for everyone in this locker room.”