PHILADELPHIA (AP) Even with their best big men out or ailing, the Philadelphia 76ers had little trouble with Washington again.
“It’s a lot of fun playing with these guys,” Brand said. “It’s a fun team to play on.”
It’s always fun for the Sixers when they play the Wizards.
The Sixers are one of the NBA’s early-season surprises and are counting on this week’s slate of home games to fatten their record. After the Wizards, they play New Jersey, Charlotte and Detroit, four of the five worst teams in the Eastern Conference.
Playing without starting center Spencer Hawes (left Achilles strain) and forward Nik Vucevic (quadriceps strain), Philadelphia improved to 8-1 at home.
The Sixers must wish they could play the Wizards (2-15) every night. They beat them by 31 points and 13 points on consecutive nights earlier this month, and this game was never competitive.
Brand was sent home from the morning shootaround with a stomach ailment. But he dunked for Philadelphia’s first basket off Iguodala’s steal, the start of a big first quarter for both. Iguodala had seven assists and Brand 11 points – both numbers above their season averages.
Meeks hit consecutive 3-pointers for a 17-10 lead, and the rout was on. The Sixers made nine of their first 14 shots, setting the pace for a torrid first half.
Brand considered sitting out until Hawes told him in a text he was out. Brand knew he had to play – and that was a good choice.
“The vets had to step up early just to send a message and set a tone,” Brand said.
Jordan Crawford led the Wizards with 17 points. They lost their third straight game and remained the NBA’s only winless road team at 0-7.
The Wizards, who lost Sunday at Boston, played with little passion in the first half. They walked down the court for offensive possessions, never hustled after loose balls and couldn’t convert the easiest of buckets, missing eight of nine shots in the paint in the first quarter. Washington coach Flip Saunders took a knee in front of the scorer’s table, bowed his head and rubbed his temples after a string of sloppy plays.
“I’m a little disappointed in that I thought we’d be more energized early,” Saunders said. “We were probably tired. You have to give them credit. That’s what you do in back-to-back situations, you jump on teams.”
About 45 minutes before the opening tip, Sixers coach Doug Collins said he wanted to see if his team had “mental toughness” heading into a game without two of its best big men. Hawes averages 10.4 points and 8.8 rebounds, and Vucevic has had a promising rookie season off the bench.
“My feeling is, when everything is good and things are going well, that’s one thing,” Collins said. “But when you start facing adversity, are we all going to pull together? I know one thing, there won’t be any excuses from my standpoint. I think our players know that. We’re not going to go out with the idea that because we’re hurt, it gives us an excuse to lose games.”
No excuses needed.
Pick any stat and the Sixers dominated. They went 4 of 9 on 3s in the first half; the Wizards were 0 for 5. At one point in the first half, the entire Wizards team had only outscored the Sixers’ bench 30-27.
Sixers rookie Lavoy Allen, who starred at nearby Temple, made all five shots from the floor and scored 10 points. Lou Williams and Thaddeus Young each scored 14. The 76ers committed a season-low seven turnovers.
The Sixers had 62 points in the first half, topping their previous season high for a half (54) set against, yup, Washington on Jan. 13.
Led by Brand and Holiday, the Sixers shot 65 percent in the half (26 of 40) and the Wizards never threatened to rally.
“The first half was as well as we can play,” Collins said.
A year ago, the Sixers were a slumping team trying to find their way. In Collins’ first season, they started 4-13 before a strong finish put them at 41-41 and in the playoffs.
After this blowout, the Sixers are 12-5 and rolling toward their first winning season since 2004-05.
Notes: The Sixers won their fifth straight over Washington. … The Sixers opened a seven-game homestand. … The Wizards led the NBA in blocks with 7.2 per game. They had five Monday night… Andy Musser, a sports announcer for 45 years and a former Sixers broadcaster, died Sunday. He was 74. “Andy was my first TV partner and he taught me the TV business,” Collins said. “There was no better pro than him and we’re all going to miss him.”
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)