PHILADELPHIA (AP) The Washington Wizards put their focus on defense in the second half, and it paid off.
John Wall had 23 points and 11 assists to lead the Wizards to a 103-94 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday night.
Jared Dudley scored 14 points and Ramon Sessions added 12 for the Wizards. Wall finished two rebounds short of a triple-double.
Washington snapped a three-game road losing streak while winning for the eighth time in nine games against Philadelphia. The Wizards began play three games behind Charlotte for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Wizards held Philadelphia to 38.5 percent field-goal shooting, including 23 percent from beyond the arc, after halftime.
''We went back to the basics,'' Wall said. ''We just have to defend. Offense is not our problem. We had a bad shooting night and still had 103 points. We have to defend. It's as simple as that.''
Washington has held opponents to an average of 89.5 points in its last four wins.
''They've proved to me they can do it,'' Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. ''I'm going to continue to harp with our guys. Our offense will take care of itself. We're going to score points if we get our defense to be active and help our offense.''
Jahlil Okafor scored 21 points and Robert Covington had 12 points and 12 rebounds for the 76ers, who lost their seventh straight and 11th in 12 games. Philadelphia dropped to 8-50, preserving their chances of breaking the NBA record for losses in an 82-game season – 73, set by the 76ers in 1972-73.
Philadelphia's defense was better against the Wizards than it had been in its previous four games when opponents averaged 121.3 points and 40.9 percent shooting from 3-point range.
But the 76ers had no answer for the Wizards when it mattered most.
Wall scored 13 in the third quarter, including four during a 12-2 run over the final 2:55 of the period that turned the Wizards' six-point deficit into a 76-72 lead entering the fourth quarter.
''He ignited them,'' 76ers coach Brett Brown said. ''The end of the third period, I felt, triggered the whole thing, gave them hope, got them back in it.''
And Washington slowly expanded its lead in the final quarter. The Wizards' margin grew to as many as 10 points, the first time when Nene made two free throws with 4:19 remaining.
Philadelphia got as close as within five points late, but the Wizards put the game away when Marcin Gortat followed Wall's miss with a layup to make it 101-94 with 44.1 seconds left.
Gortat had a double-double for the Wizards with 12 points and 11 boards.
Washington outrebounded Philadelphia 55-41, including 17-7 on the offensive glass.
CELEBRATE PHILLY STYLE
Washington's Markieff Morris, a Philadelphia native, treated his teammates and the Wizards staff to postgame Philly cheesesteaks from his favorite local spot, Max's Steaks, which is located on Broad and Erie Streets.
Wall said he was concerned before and throughout the game about losing to the hapless 76ers.
''This is a game we can't lose, especially when we're trying to make a (playoff) run,'' he said. ''Losing a game like this would be devastating.''
MORE PRAISE FOR WALL
Brown lauded Wall's performance.
''He's one of these jaw-dropping guards that you look at and you say, `Wow,''' Brown said. ''(He) is just incredibly fast. Then you watch him with his size, have the ability to take hits at the rim, and still finish. That's a pretty good combination. He's always been a difficult guard for us, and I'm sure most coaches are going to say the same thing.''
Wizards: G Gary Neal (leg) missed his eighth straight game. … Washington hosts Philadelphia on Monday night, and the teams wrap up their four-game season series on March 17 in Philadelphia. … Alan Anderson played in his second game in his return from ankle surgery and scored five points in 16 minutes. He had nine points in 16 minutes in his season debut during Wednesday's 109-104 loss at Chicago.
76ers: Fred Carter, who led the `72-'73 team in scoring, was seated on press row. … G T.J. McConnell returned to the lineup after missing Wednesday's game with a sprained right ankle. He had 10 points. … Jerry Colangelo, the 76ers' chairman of basketball operations, was in attendance. Colangelo predicted Philadelphia eventually will be able to lure free agents. ''I think we will have a shot to become a destination,'' he said. ''That's our goal.''