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Sixers lose 20th straight game on the road

HOUSTON - Someone else will have to be "that team." With James Harden leading the way Monday, the Houston Rockets easily avoided being the team that let the 76ers end their road losing streak.

HOUSTON - Someone else will have to be "that team."

With James Harden leading the way Monday, the Houston Rockets easily avoided being the team that let the 76ers end their road losing streak.

Harden had 33 points, nine assists and seven rebounds as the Rockets rolled to a 115-88 victory at the Toyota Center, extending the Sixers' road losing streak to 20 games dating to last season.

The 20 losses tied the second-longest road losing streak in franchise history set by the 1987-88 team. The Sixers set a franchise record of 23 straight over two seasons from March 29 to Dec. 23, 2015. Their last road win was a 96-87 decision over the Orlando Magic on Jan. 20, 2016, at the Amway Center.

The Sixers (1-9) also dropped to 1-46 overall in games played in October and November since beating the Milwaukee Bucks on Nov. 22, 2013. And they did it in lackluster fashion.

Gone was the fire and never-give-up attitude that has been the team's staple since Brett Brown was hired as coach before the start of the 2013-14 season. Luckily for them, the Rockets (6-4) did their best not to embarrass the overmatched squad. They were up, 90-63, with 3 minutes, 44 seconds left in the third. Taking their foot off the gas, the Rockets scored only 25 points the rest of the way.

"Tonight, we just didn't really fight," Gerald Henderson said. "As a defense, you need to be locked in . . . on their individual players, their tendencies, and all that stuff.

"We got physically just effort-wise, dominated."

Harden showed why he's arguably the hardest player to defend in the NBA. The four-time NBA all-star had an unthinkable video game-like first quarter.

His 23 points in the quarter were three shy of matching the Sixers' team total. The 6-foot-5, 220-pounder did that by playing nearly perfect basketball.

He made all eight of his field-goal attempts. Harden was 2 for 2 on three-pointers and 5 of 5 from the foul line. He also had four rebounds and three assists. His only blemish in the quarter was two turnovers.

"I looked up and I was surprised," Joel Embiid said of Harden's first-quarter effort. "But he made shots and made more shots."

All this came on day when Harden was named the Western Conference player of the week. He won the award after averaging 27 points, 14.3 assists, and 9.7 rebounds in last week's three Rockets games.

"He's got real skills with the basketball," said Henderson, who guarded Harden some. "With his size, being 6-6, whatever he is, it's hard to guard a guy. He can get down low and put his body on you. You know he's good quickness. And . . . he can really shoot."

The Sixers threw a lot of different defenders at Harden. Robert Covington guarded him first. Dario Saric and T.J. McConnell also faced him.

Harden made 12 of 20 shots from the field, including going 4 for 8 on three-pointers before leaving the game with 6 minutes, 15 seconds left.

The Rockets attempted 40 three-pointers, making 17 of them (42.5 percent). The Sixers made just 5 of 22 threes (22.7 percent).

Embiid finished with 13 points, 10 rebounds, two blocks, one steal, and six turnovers for the second double-double of his career. The rookie center became the Sixer to record two points-and-rebounds double-doubles in his first seven career games since Todd MacCulloch during the 1999-2000 season. Nine of Embiid's points on Monday came in the first quarter.

Reserve center Jahlil Okafor struggled, scoring four points on 2-for-11 shooting. He missed eight straight shots after converting his first attempt of the game.

Monday's contest matched the Sixers against their former associate head coach Mike D'Antoni. He was hired by Jerry Colangelo, the Sixers' former chairman of basketball operations, to work under Brown in December.

The Rockets hired D'Antoni as their head coach in May. He said his time in Philly allowed him to get his name back out there in coaching circles.

"I owe a lot to the Philadelphia organization for doing that and Brett allowing me to come in," said D'Antoni, who had previous head-coaching stints with the Los Angeles Lakers, New York Knicks, Phoenix Suns, and Denver Nuggets.