DiLeo wins debut as 76ers top WizardsDec 14, 2008 - 4:50 AM PHILADELPHIA (Ticker) -- In a battle of teams that have already sent their head coaches packing, it was the team with the freshest change that came out on top.
Interim head coach Tony DiLeo picked up a win in his coaching debut as the Philadelphia 76ers got a big game from Elton Brand and dispatched the Washington Wizards, 104-89, on Saturday.
Brand scored 27 points and Louis Williams and Thaddeus Young combined for 31 off the bench for the 76ers, who snapped a three-game slide and topped 100 points for the first time since December 3.
"It was a big game for our sake with the coaching change, losing so many games in a row at home," Brand said. "There was a lot on the guys' mind. We had to have this victory."
DiLeo moved down to the bench from his assistant general manager's office earlier Saturday to replace Maurice Cheeks, who was fired after the team's 9-14 start. DiLeo will remain the boss on the bench until the end of the season.
"The one thing that I was proud of tonight was that we kept our concentration level, our focus and our energy for most of the game," DiLeo said. "We didn't have that many lulls in the game and that is a credit to our players.
"I liked our defense tonight. We were active, they were talking on the floor and that's one of the things that we will emphasize and work on in the coming days in practice. Overall, I'm happy with the win. I'm extremely grateful to our assistant coaches really helped me through this game."
Last season, Cheeks finished fourth in Coach of the Year voting after the Sixers overcame an 18-30 start to reach the postseason for the first time since 2004-05.
"Coaching is like managing," DiLeo said. "I felt comfortable, especially with the assistants out there. Anytime I had a question they gave me great input. The game flew by to me and brought back a lot of feeling that I had when I was coaching."
Many expected the Sixers to be one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference this season after the club inked Brand to a five-year, $82 million contract. Despite leading the team in scoring, Brand has not yet lived up to expectations and the rest of the team also has struggled.
"It was tough for the players to have (the coaching change) happen early in the season," Brand said.
"We have a lot of pride and we want to win some games. I was just getting to know coach (Cheeks). Some of the guys that have been here longer and I'm sure have friendships with him. You just have to move on and win some ballgames."
But the players seemed to respond to the new voice in the huddle - especially Brand, who went 12-of-19 from the field and chipped in nine rebounds.
"We had a few mental lapses that we will go over and fix but, for the most part, we played a good game and we wanted to press the issue from the beginning," Brand said. "This was one of our best games. We had some good games on both sides of the court, but this was one our best games."
Brand and Samuel Dalembert, who had 17 rebounds, controlled the inside and held Washington centers Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee to a combined seven points and seven boards.
The Sixers shot 51 percent (38-of-74) from the floor in the contest and jumped out to a 51-40 lead at the half. They went up by as much as 66-46 on Andre Iguodala's free throw with 6:28 left in the third and were never threatened thereafter.
Antawn Jamison scored 17 points and DeShawn Stevenson and Mike James chipped in 15 apiece for the Wizards, who fired coach Eddie Jordan earlier in the season.
"There are difficulties when you make then you make a mistake and they make a run," Washington interim coach Ed Tapscott said. "It is always like chasing your tail, you are never quite caught up.
"Give the Sixers credit, every time we made a run, they responded. We need to stop falling behind that is one of our problems. We dig a hole and we try to dig out. We have to stop digging a hole."
PHILADELPHIA 104 FINAL
Dec 13 9:55 PM
PHILADELPHIA 79 END, 3RD QTR
Dec 13 9:22 PM
PHILADELPHIA 51 HALFTIME
Dec 13 8:38 PM
PHILADELPHIA 25 END, 1ST QTR
Dec 13 8:06 PM
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