Mar 27, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard Patrick Beverley (2) attempts to steal the ball from Philadelphia 76ers guard Michael Carter-Williams (1) during the first quarter at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

On the Cusp of History: 76ers tie All-Time Losing Streak with 120-98 loss to Rockets


Facing a team that the franchise may one day try to duplicate, the Houston Rockets, a devastatingly talent-deficient 76ers team was run off the floor Thursday night in a 120-98 loss on the road. For the 26th-straight time, tying the NBA’s all-time record set by the 2010-2011 Cavaliers, Philadelphia saw themselves on the wrong end of the final score. For head coach Brett Brown, after spending the better part of his career with the most consistently competitive franchise in the NBA, the waning stages of the 2013-2014 season have to be adding a few wrinkles to his tough, New England facade. Departing from the consistency of seeing future Hall-of-Famers Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili riddled throughout a roster for his NBA life to this point, Brown must have gagged when he was forced to hand over a starting lineup card featuring players who most likely won’t be in the league beyond this season.

It was the star-studded duo of the Rockets that highlighted just how far from competing the 76ers are. James Harden and Dwight Howard brought championship aspirations to the Rockets’ franchise, who five years ago were meddled in mediocrity like Philadelphia. Now, through savvy work by Houston GM Daryl Morey, Houston looks poised to make a deep run in the Western Conference playoffs and possibly contend for a title. To give an idea of just the sort of impact a presence like Howard can be, ESPN’s Stats and Info department was more than happy to highlight the big man’s dominance.

The Rockets coasted their way to a 63-49 halftime lead, staving off any spurts the 76ers tried to put together through sheer, overwhelming talent. Coming out of the break, it was the Rockets’ other star’s turn to add another earmark to his season at the expense of the Sixers. James Harden probably turned in the most effortless triple-double (26 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists) of his career, and he did so in three quarters of action. Houston flirted with 50% shooting throughout almost the entire contest, finishing at 48.9% and outscored the 76ers in every single, individual quarter. James Anderson led Philadelphia with 30 points, Michael Carter-Williams dished out 10 assists, and Thaddeus Young had nine rebounds.

For GM Sam Hinkie, games like this have to give him hope that his plan of attack is a viable one. Though the Rockets never slipped to the point that Philadelphia has this season, they positioned themselves to take advantage of opportunities when they presented themselves. By acquiring draft picks at an abnormal rate, freeing up cap space by moving expiring contracts, and acknowledging the value of ‘Superstar’ players the Rockets have become a daunting contender and an attractive location for free agents. Were it not for the Oklahoma City Thunder deciding to ship off Harden, the Rockets may still be mired in irrelevancy. That said, when it became clear that the Thunder did not intend on keeping Harden on board for the future, the Rockets had more than enough ammunition to make the trade with Oklahoma City and give Harden the max-deal he desired. Harden’s exploits were sufficient enough to convince Dwight Howard that the Rockets had the type of star-power that is necessary to compete for a title. Hinkie’s approach is more contingent on bringing in talent through the draft, but it is also one that hinged itself upon the timing and state of the league.

Up next for the 76ers, perhaps a chance to prevent a spot alone atop the totem pole of futility. Saturday night, the Detroit Pistons (losers of 8 of their last 10) visit the Wells Fargo Center. A loss would break the tie between the Sixers and ’10-’11 Cavaliers. A win would do very little for the team from an outsider’s perspective, but one would have to imagine the locker room would appreciate it. Even while the fanbase clamors for a desirable position in the lottery, the pain on the players’ faces is more evident following every defeat. Expect another strong, perhaps misguided, effort by the rag-tag 76ers as they look to put history on hold. Silver-lining for all of this? The Milwaukee Bucks beat the Los Angeles Lakers, shrinking their ‘lead’ over Philadelphia for worst record in the league to just one game.

Tags: Basketball Brett Brown Featured James Anderson Michael Carter-Williams NBA Philadelphia 76ers Popular Sam Hinkie Thaddeus Young