Sickly Sixers: Anatomy of a Losing Streak


Everthing is Bigger In TexasEverything is bigger in Texas.

Including losing streaks.

And the Philadelphia 76ers are on the verge of the biggest losing streak in NBA history.

After a couple of relatively narrow losses in which they were more competitive and provided a smidgen of hope for their suffering fans, the Sixers are back to normal and getting clobbered again.

Philadelphia is up to 25 straight losses as it prepares for Thursday’s game at Houston. Another loss will tie the 76ers with the 2010-11 Cleveland Cavaliers for the longest slide in league annals.

The Sixers lost consecutive games to Indiana, Chicago and New York by a combined 18 points. In all three games, they had chances to win, however faint they may have seemed.

But following a 91-81 loss at Chicago in which they were limited to their second-lowest point total of the streak,  the Sixers went into San Antonio and were predictably hammered, 113-91, by the NBA’s best and hottest team.

No one on the Spurs played more than 28 minutes except Cory Joseph, the third-string point guard who started for the rested Tony Parker. Fellow starters Danny Green and Tiago Splitter also were given the night off. Austin Daye, who had scored 14 points all season, scored 22 points.

The Sixers (15-56) have lost to 20 teams during the streak, including New York, Orlando and Utah twice. They also have lost to Boston, Cleveland, Detroit, the Los Angeles Lakers, Milwaukee and Sacramento. As of this writing, those nine teams are a combined 217 games under .500.

During the streak, the Sixers have lost by an average of 16.9 points and allowed an average of 111 points. They have led in the fourth quarter for a grand total of 20 seconds.

Philadelphia will have perhaps its best chance to end the streak – or break the record – on Saturday vs. Detroit. The Pistons haven’t won a road game since Jan. 18, although they did demolish Philadelphia at home, 113-96, on Feb. 1.

Given the remaining schedule, you have to start wondering – as coach Brett Brown already did some time ago – if they will win again this season. Among their last 11 games, there are just three that appear winnable: the home game against Detroit and two games vs. Boston in April.

Could Philadelphia really lose 36 in a row?

Here is a breakdown of Philadelphia’s losing streak:

Atlanta 125, Philadelphia 99, Jan. 31: The host Sixers committed 15 turnovers in the first half, digging a 64-Greg Monroe52 hole. Then they allowed 38 points in the third quarter and left the court to a chorus of boos. Tony Wroten shot 1-of-13 from the field.

Detroit 113, Philadelphia 96, Feb. 1: On the road, the Sixers have no answer for the Pistons’ big tandem of Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe, who combine for 43 points on 18-of-21 shooting and 26 rebounds. In the first quarter, they shoot 9-of-9 for 22 points with 11 boards.

Brooklyn 108, Philadelphia 102, Feb. 3: The Nets end a three-game skid with a home win. The Sixers commit 26 turnovers, but just two in the fourth quarter, when they actually stage a comeback that falls short. “Isn’t that amazing? You actually get to shoot and have a chance to score,” cracked coach Brett Brown.

Boston 114, Philadelphia 108, Feb. 5: One week earlier, the Sixers had beaten the Celtics in Boston. They could have pulled into a tie in the standings with a win, but a late turnover by rookie Michael Carter-Williams ends any chance of a victory.

LA Lakers 112, Philadelphia 98, Feb. 7: The host Sixers display their accommodating nature and give Steve Nash a swan song on his 40th birthday, allowing him to go for 19 points and five assists.

LA Clippers 123, Philadelphia 78, Feb. 9: The Sixers begin a three-game western swing in historic fashion as Chris Paul returns from his separated shoulder and leads LA to the biggest victory in franchise history. The Sixers trailed 30-5 after 6 1/2 minutes, 52-15 after 13 minutes and a staggering 89-33 midway through the third quarter. Philadelphia shot 27-of-100 overall and 3-of-28 from the arc.

Golden State 123, Philadelphia 80, Feb. 10: The Sixers become just the second team in NBA history to lose consecutive games by 40-plus points, joining – you guessed it – the 1993-94 Sixers. They are lit up by former Sixers Marreese Speights, who goes for a career-high 32 points and hears chants of “M-V-P!” from the crowd. Philadelphia is outscored 69-31 in the middle two quarters and trails 98-52 entering the final period.

Utah 105, Philadelphia 100, Feb. 12: In the finale of the road trip, the Sixers actually have a chance to win, pulling into a 91-91 tie with 2:10 to play before Jazz guard Alec Burks scores nine straight points. Sixers guard James Anderson makes three 3-pointers in the final 18 seconds, teasing the team’s tormented fans.

Cleveland 114, Philadelphia 85, Feb. 18: Well-rested after the All-Star break, the Sixers come home and lay an egg against the Cavaliers, who record their biggest victory since James left town. Carter-Williams had Philadelphia 76ers Sixersfive turnovers and no assists in the first half, helping dig a 64-43 hole. Apparently, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Spencer Hawes shoots 1-of-6 and is traded to the Cavs two days later.

Dallas 124, Philadelphia 112, Feb. 21: One day after GM Sam Hinkie’s fire sale turns loose Hawes and leading scorer Evan Turner (to Indiana), the Sixers dress just eight players, surrender 41 points in the first quarter and never lead in a home loss. Thaddeus Young, who did not get a pardon, scores 30 points on 29 shots and says, “This situation, I don’t know how much worse it could get.” Much worse, Thad.

Milwaukee 130, Philadelphia 110, Feb. 24: The league-worst Bucks come to town as a three-point favorite – and play their best game of the season. They race to a 73-44 halftime lead and end a 10-game road losing streak. Fortified with three players acquired in trades – game-changers Byron Mullens, Eric Maynor and Henry Sims – the Sixers allow the Bucks to shoot 57 percent from the floor. “The effort was extraordinarily poor,” Brown said.

Orlando 101, Philadelphia 90, Feb. 26: Again a home underdog against one of the NBA’s worst teams, the Sixers allow the Magic to end a 16-game road losing streak. The game was tied entering the fourth quarter, but Philadelphia has just one basket in the final four minutes.

Washington 122, Philadelphia 103, Mar. 1: It’s the first sellout of the season for the Sixers, who are retiring Allen IversonAllen Iverson’s No. 3 at halftime. Before they get there, however, they surrender a season-high 74 points in the first half. Washington’s Trevor Ariza drains six 3-pointers without a miss and scores 24 points in the first quarter en route to a career-high 40. Asked if he wonders if the Sixers will win another game, Brown said, “All the time.”

Orlando 92, Philadelphia 81, Mar. 2: For the first time since the streak began, the visiting Sixers allow less than 100 points. They even hold a 69-66 lead entering the fourth quarter before former Sixers draft pick Mo Harkless opens the period with a tying 3-pointer. Philadelphia manages five baskets and six turnovers in the quarter. In uncharted territory as a 10 1/2-point favorite, the Magic somehow cover the number.

Oklahoma City 125, Philadelphia 92, Mar. 4: Carter-Williams decides to engage in some trash-talking with Russell Westbrook, who goes for a triple-double in 21 minutes. “That’s how I play anyway,” the rookie said. “I compete.” Really? You could have fooled us. The visiting Sixers allow 98 points in three quarter, 42 by Kevin Durant, who takes the rest of the night off.

Utah 104, Philadelphia 92, March 8: The Sixers rally from an 11-point deficit and tie the game at 91 on a layup by Wroten with 2:52 remaining. Alec Burks responds with a 3-pointer to put Utah back ahead 16 seconds later. Wroten misses a layup on Philadelphia’s next possession – just his second miss – and Gordon Hayward puts away the game with a pair of free throws and three-point play in the final minute. Wroten wound up 12-of-15 for 30 points.

New York 123, Philadelphia 110, March 10: The Sixers show signs that this could be the night, opening a 12-point lead in the first quarter and still holding a 75-74 edge midway through the third quarter. But the Knicks begin the final period with a 19-4 run – all with Carmelo Anthony on the bench – and cruised from there. Philadelphia wastes a triple-double by Carter-Williams.

Sacramento 115, Philadelphia 98, March 12: The first 20-10 game of Sims’ career is offset by seven turnovers by Carter-Williams. The Sixers never lead in the second half and trail by double digits for the final 15 minutes against one the league’s worst teams. After the game, Brown said, ”It’s not doom and gloom. We will have another good day tomorrow.”

Indiana 101, Philadelphia 94, March 14: In typical fashion, the Sixers fall behind by 17 points in the first half. Unlike most of their losses, however, they fight back and pull within 93-90 with 2 1/2 minutes to play before missing six straight shots down the stretch, allowing the East-leading Pacers and their three Grizzlies Knicks Basketballformer Sixers to escape with the win.

Memphis 103, Philadelphia 77, March 15: The Sixers really have no chance against the defensive-minded Grizzlies, who force 22 turnovers and hold Philadelphia to a season low in points. ”This is not slit-your-wrist time. This is not even close to that,” Brown says afterward. “This is about building a program and understanding the short-term pain for a lot of long-term gain. That’s my vision.”

Indiana 99, Philadelphia 90, March 17: Two free throws by Wroten pull the Sixers within 88-85 with 2:51 to go, and they get the ball back with a chance to get closer before backcourt mate Carter-Williams begins behaving like the rookie that he is. He misses a hero shot – a potential tying 3-pointer. At the other end, he loses track of George Hill, who drills a 3-pointer. He throws away a pass, then fouls Roy Hibbert on a putback. Ballgame. ”I think it’s a great example and learning lesson for Michael Carter-Williams, leaving the corner, George Hill hits a three, it’s a three-point game,” Brown says.

Chicago 102, Philadelphia 94, March 19: For the just third time during the streak, the Sixers are tied in the fourth quarter, pulling even at 85-85 on a 3-pointer by Young with 7:43 to go. They have a chance to take the lead, but Wroten misses a layup. Jimmy Butler and D.J. Augustin make 3-pointers to rebuild Chicago’s lead to six, and the visiting Bulls hold on. “Winnable game,” Brown said.

New York 93, Philadelphia 92, March 21: The visiting Knicks appear to be cruising to their eighth straight win, opening a 91-74 lead with 5:15 to play. But the Sixers storm back as James Nunnally, Carter-Williams and Young make 3-pointers in a 16-1 run that cuts the deficit to 92-90 with 32 seconds left. Thaddeus YoungPhiladelphia has a chance to tie, but James Anderson makes a bad pass, Carmelo Anthony sinks a free throw, and Carter-Williams misses a desperation 3-pointer that Young puts back in at the buzzer.

Chicago 91, Philadelphia 81, March 22: A three-game road trip begins without Tony Wroten, who sprained his ankle in the previous game. His absence is obvious as the Sixers are held to their second-lowest total during the streak. Young takes 26 shots and is averaging 22.5 hoists in the last six games. But realistically, who else should be shooting? “There’s a win in this group,” Brown mantains.

San Antonio 113, Philadelphia 91, March 24: A longtime assistant with the Spurs, Brown returns to the Alamo City for the first time since taking the Sixers job. Gregg Popovich says he feels terrible for his former staff member but does not feel sorry for him. Elias Sports says it is the first game in NBA history matching a team with a winning streak of at least 10 against a team with a losing streak of at least 20.

Chris Bernucca is the managing editor of His columns appear Monday during the season. You can follow him on Twitter.

Bernucca: Clippers Captain is Back, But the Ship Ran Just Fine Without CP3


ChrisPaulSH1Chris Paul returned to the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday.

We don’t want to be party-poopers, but it probably should be pointed out that the Clippers were better without him.

This does not mean that GM Gary Sacks should start exploring trade possibilities for a top-five player. And it doesn’t mean that coach Doc Rivers should go with the hot hand at point guard at the end of games.

But it does mean that if the Clippers want to win a championship this season – which is entirely within the realm of possibility – Paul has to reacclimate himself with his teammates more than they do to him.

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Familiar Names Highlight Most Improved Player Rankings

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Reggie_JacksonImagine for a second that this column is a talk show.

It’s easy if you try.

Now, imagine I told you that Isaiah Thomas and Reggie Jackson were going to be on it. Imagine all the people who would watch that show.

Yoo-hoo, oooh.

You’d be pumped, right?

Isiah Lord Thomas. Zeke. One of the greatest basketball players in history. And Reggie Jackson. Mr. October. The man who hit three home runs in a World Series game?!

What a show we’ve got for you tonight! 

You’d be glued to the TV. Or, at least, you’d DVR it.

And then your face would sink slowly as you realized that I didn’t mean “Bad Boy Pistons” Isiah Thomas. I meant “Pizza Guy” Isaiah Thomas. I didn’t mean “Straw that Stirs the Drink” Reggie Jackson, just “Russell Westbrook backup” Reggie Jackson.

What is this, the Pete Holmes Show??

That’s what this edition of the Most Improved Player Rankings feels like – The Pete Holmes Show. Or at least, Tavis Smiley.

Normally, this is the spot where NBA players make names for themselves, arriving on the Sheridan Hoops stage before they are recognized by the national hoops media at large. Paul George did that last season.

But this season, some guys are making the same name somebody else already made. Thomas isn’t Zeke, but he is playing like a guy Zeke would trade six consecutive draft picks for.

Jackson may not be the Straw that Stirs the Drink, but he could be the Splenda that makes the 27-7 drink taste a little better. (I don’t know. I haven’t had my coffee yet).

Both namesake point guards have energized their teams and accounted for nearly as many TV double-takes as an Andre Drummond throwdown. Thomas has taken over as Sacramento’s full-time starter, averaging 19.3 points and six assists. He’s been the Kings’ most important player this season, and is one of the reasons for hope in the future.

Jackson filled in when Westbrook was hurt at the beginning of the season and again now that Westbrook is out until at least the All-Star break. He has continued to play with confidence, putting up 27 points in Sunday’s home win over Boston. He has added some much-needed backcourt depth to a team that can be too one-dimensional at times. There’s no way OKC has the best record in the West without him.

You may say I’m a dreamer.

But they’re not the only ones.

Anyway, it’s time for our musical guest. You guessed it…John Le…gend. Sorry, I hit the ellipses button there.

That’s our column for you. Goodnight everybody!

On to the rankings.

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Tony Wroten’s Journey: From Benched Rookie to Most Improved Player Candidate

1 Comment ago, Tony Wroten was one of the top high school players attending a basketball camp hosted by star point guard Deron Williams.

This week, Wroten was guarding Deron Williams.

“It’s crazy because, I remember when I was younger, I went to his camp and he told me pointers, and now I’m in the league going against him,” Wroten told Sheridan Hoops. 

As crazy as it may have sounded years ago, it seemed just as crazy months ago, when Wroten couldn’t get off the bench for the Memphis Grizzlies as a rookie.

Is Paul George the NBA’s Most Improved Player … Again?

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PaulGeorgeSH1When you write a column about the NBA’s Most Improved Players, things can get emotional.

As you can probably imagine, you start to adopt the guys you write about each week. It’s a common theme for those of us who chronicle the Most Improved Players in the league each season, and everyone I’ve ever met who does it feels the same way.

OK, so we’re the only ones who do it. But still.

You root for your guys, feel a sense of pride when they accomplish something and share in their disappointment when they fail.

You start to think of them like your own children, or even a Chia Pet. You want to see them prosper, and it’s cool when they impress your friends at a house party. Look at how much he/she/it has grown! 

Still, there comes a moment in every parent’s life when they have to say good-bye. The season ends, and your little NBA Chia Pet player kid moves out of the house or grows enough to knock your mother’s $700 vase off the kitchen table.

But with this award, you tend to say good-bye to them once the season is over.

Once a guy is considered for Most Improved Player one seasaon, he’s almost ineligible for the award the next. Think about it. The player would have to take his game to a completely different level. It’s almost impossible. No one has ever won the award twice.

That is, until this season. Perhaps. At the very least, it’s an argument that merits debate.

It’s like Paul George doesn’t want to leave the nest.

George has drastically improved his field goal percentage (47 percent, up from 42 percent), 3-point percentage (42 percent from 36 percent), free-throw percentage (85 percent from 80 percent), and naturally, points per game (24.1, up from 17.4 last season). He’s a legitimate MVP candidate (currently ranked No. 1 by Sheridan), and has carried the Pacers to a torrid 20-4 start.

Sure, his assist and rebounding numbers are down, but that’s because he has taken over as one of the NBA’s clear-cut alpha dogs, with more of a scoring responsibility on his shoulders.

He is playing at a LeBron level of efficiency, and had The King himself proclaiming, “He’s going to be great.”

I can’t put him back in the rankings yet. There are too many other deserving candidates.

But just know that I’m thinking of you, Paulie. We’ll always have this.

It’s so tough to watch them leave.

On to the rankings.

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