Wizards prep for postseason with 76ers in town

(SportsNetwork.com) - The Washington Wizards have been sputtering a bit and will try to right the ship before the playoffs, starting Wednesday when the Philadelphia 76ers visit the Verizon Center.

The Wizards have clinched a playoff berth and seem pretty locked into the fifth seed. They are three games out of fourth and five in front of the Milwaukee Bucks, who are sixth.

Washington has dropped five of the last six, including two of its last three at home. The Wizards host the New York Knicks on Friday to complete this homestand, which began with a 99-91 loss on Sunday to the Houston Rockets.

John Wall ended with 25 points, 12 assists and eight rebounds for the Wizards, who had won five straight prior to this swoon. Otto Porter and Bradley Beal each scored 15 points.

After the Wizards pulled within four, 79-75, early in the fourth quarter, Pablo Prigioni and Corey Brewer made consecutive 3-pointers to spark a 14-2 Houston run. James Harden capped the surge with two free throws to make it a 93-77 contest with 5:56 left.

Washington battled back and got within six in the final minute, but couldn't get over the hump.

"We were running things that I've never seen before. We weren't focused on what we needed to do from an offensive standpoint," said Wizards coach Randy Wittman.

The 76ers have lost three in a row, although the last two were very close affairs. Philly fell to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers Sunday at the Q by one.

On Monday, the Sixers lost at home, 113-111, in overtime to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Nerlens Noel bolstered his case for Rookie of the Year with 19 points and 14 rebounds for the Sixers. Isaiah Canaan finished with 18 points off the bench and Ish Smith tallied 17.

Down six, Philadelphia got two buckets from Noel, and he went to the free- throw line with a chance to tie the game. He missed both attempts, but Hollis Thompson's offensive rebound gave the Sixers life.

"He wants the ball," said Sixers coach Brett Brown. "I'm at a stage where I've got confidence that he's going to step up and not be intimidated by the moment."

Noel tied the game out of a timeout, but Jordan Clarkson's layup after a baseline cut toward the basket gave the Lakers the lead with a second left. Robert Covington could not hit the desperation 3 as the buzzer sounded.

The 76ers visit the Charlotte Hornets and New York Knicks on this trek.

The Sixers beat the Wizards on Feb. 27 to snap a four-game series losing streak. Washington has taken the last two games in DC and the two will meet in Philly in one week.