There had been some doubt as to whether the Philadelphia 76ers could win with Elton Brand back in the lineup. Injuries, meanwhile, have unquestionably wrecked the Washington Wizards' season.
The 76ers, who continue to succeed with Brand back from an injury, kick off a season-high seven-game homestand in a matchup with the Wizards on Friday night.
With Gilbert Arenas (knee), Etan Thomas (knee), Brendan Haywood (wrist) and DeShawn Stevenson (back) all out, Washington (9-36) has the NBA's worst record after four straight playoff appearances.
Now the Wizards will be without starting center Andray Blatche, who will miss at least two weeks with a knee injury he suffered in a 103-87 loss to Phoenix on Monday night.
There was reason to believe Philadelphia (22-22) would have had a tough time remaining competitive when Brand went down with a dislocated shoulder, but it won a season-best seven straight and went 9-7 overall without him. The 76ers were 11-14 before the veteran big man was hurt.
Philadelphia incorporated a fast-paced style without Brand, who thrives more in a set offense, and it was uncertain how he would fit into the new scheme when he returned Saturday night against New York. The 76ers won that game 116-110, getting six points from Brand in 13 minutes off the bench.
Brand was held scoreless in his next game as Philadelphia lost 101-86 at New Orleans on Monday night, but he's coming off his best contest since returning. Brand had 14 points, seven rebounds and a season-high six blocks as the Sixers won 95-93 in Houston on Wednesday night.
"I felt great," Brand said. "It's all about getting victories. I'm being aggressive and just fitting in with the team. I go out and play and get my post-ups and shots in the flow of the game. We have a great team."
Brand had a big game in Philadelphia's first matchup with Washington this season, scoring a season-high 27 points and adding nine rebounds in a 104-89 home win on Dec. 13. Six days later, Philadelphia was without Brand as it won 109-103 in Washington.
Coach Tony DiLeo, who has guided the Sixers to a 13-8 record since replacing the fired Maurice Cheeks, has decided to ease Brand into the rotation. Brand's 25 minutes versus the Rockets were his most since coming back.
"I really like coaching this team," said DiLeo, whose Sixers won for the ninth time in 11 games. "Great attitude, great effort every night."
Wizards coach Ed Tapscott continues to try and patch together a lineup. With Blatche out, Tapscott started veteran Darius Songaila over rookie JaVale McGee in a 93-71 loss at Miami on Wednesday night.
McGee started 13 games earlier this season and will receive plenty of playing time with Washington short-handed, but Tapscott prefers the experienced Songaila in the starting lineup. Songaila had 10 points and three rebounds in 30 minutes while McGee finished with two points and six boards in 17 minutes.
The duo combined to shoot 6-for-17 from the field and the Wizards finished 30-for-81 (37.0 percent) overall. They shot 39.5 percent (32-for-81) against the Suns.
"We talked about playing with discipline and within our design," Tapscott said. "That's critical for us."
Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler continue to carry Washington, averaging 21.0 and 20.1 points, respectively.
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