HOUSTON - A franchise record-breaking night almost turned into a record-stopping night, but in the end, as usual of late, the 76ers couldn't find ways to hold a lead late in the fourth quarter Friday night and dropped a 116-114 decision to the Houston Rockets.
The Sixers are now 0-17, tying the NBA record for most losses to start a season. They have lost 27 in a row dating back to last season, breaking the NBA record set by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2010-11.
It was the fourth consecutive game in which the Sixers held a lead in the fourth quarter, only to squander it at the end.
Coach Brett Brown had said all week that his team "just can't score."
So to that end, he decided to start scorer Isaiah Canaan at point guard against Houston. He did his part by scoring 23 points, including four of the team's franchise-record 16 made three-pointers. But James Harden was way too much for the Sixers to overcome with his 50 points to lead the Rockets, who snapped a three-game skid and improved to 6-10.
"When you start studying numbers and figure out who matches up well, this is one of the hardest groups I've ever had to manage," Brown said. "It might be the greatest responsibility of a coach, learning how to pair people and sub people and put them where they can do well individually and find the best groups that can coexist. We're trying to figure out two bigs in Nerlens (Noel) and Jahlil (Okafor), trying to figure out who's the point guard. All that is a work in progress, and I think that Isaiah has shown that, paired with Jah, another stretch-the-floor-type of player is on the floor. And anytime you have Jahlil Okafor, you need shooters. Gut feel tells you that; your instincts tell you that; and the numbers behind it, the analytics, say it, also."
Against Houston, Brown didn't have to figure out anything with Noel, who sat with a sore knee. And the Sixers made nine of their first 10 shots of the fourth quarter with Okafor on the bench, so the thinking will go on and on and on. Brown did get back Nik Stauskas from a knee injury, and Stauskas got 15 minutes of play.
Robert Covington had a terrific night for the Sixers in posting 28 points (6-for-9 from three), eight steals, seven rebounds and five assists. Jerami Grant added 18 points and Okafor 11.
Dwight Howard had 14 points and 13 rebounds and canned two big free throws with 32.6 seconds remaining for the Rockets
"We find times that we're playing not to lose," Canaan said. "We're on our heels, and nobody wants to mess up. We just have to keep doing the things that got us the lead and got us all our energy. We just got to try to keep our foot on the gas pedal for the whole game."