BOSTON – The 76ers lost their way into the U.S. professional record book in fitting fashion – not with a blowout, but with the kind of occurrences typical of a team that can't get out of its own way.
They missed seven of their final eight shots after holding an 11-point lead with 6 minutes, 16 seconds remaining. They turned the ball over on six of seven late fourth-quarter possessions. They finished with 19 turnovers.
The miscues doomed the Sixers to an 84-80 loss to the Boston Celtics on Wednesday night at TD Garden, making it 26 consecutive losses dating back to March 27, tying the most in sports history no matter how it's counted.
"I don't even care," coach Brett Brown said of the record. "I don't even think about it. We are trying to grow young players. How many [losing] streaks have I been a part of? I'm numb to it. I'm truly numb to it.
"We move on. It's a new day, and it's just part of my world and our world over the past few years."
Sacrificing wins has been part of the team's plan since Sam Hinkie was hired as general manager in May 2013. Like the previous two campaigns, the Sixers are using this season for player development and evaluating talent. In the process, they hope to lose enough games to secure a top pick in the NBA draft in June.
It appears that the Sixers are well on their way.
They equaled the futility run established by the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 1976 and 1977 seasons. The 2013-14 Sixers and 2010-11 Cleveland Cavaliers tied that record and hold the NBA mark.
Those two squads posted their losing streaks over a single season. The current Sixers have opened this season with 16 straight setbacks. They lost the final 10 games of last season.
The 0-16 start is one loss away from the franchise mark it set in 2014-15 for consecutive losses to start a season. The league record is 18, held by the 2009-10 New Jersey Nets.
Next up is a matchup at the Houston Rockets on Friday, followed by a contest at the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday. The Sixers could break the overall losing streak and match their franchise mark for losses to start a season against the Rockets. They would be in line to shatter that record at Memphis.
"It is hard to not get more frustrated, because you are so close to getting that W," said Nerlens Noel, whose squad blew fourth-quarter leads in each of the last three games. "But it's a couple of plays that you barely could sleep on.
"It's a team effort. We are going to rebound, go down to Houston and give it our all again. Hopefully, we can make it a different outcome."
The Sixers were without shooting guard Nik Stauskas. He'll be sidelined a week after suffering a contusion to the outside of his left knee in Monday's 100-95 road loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The Sixers started Isaiah Canaan at shooting guard and Robert Covington at small forward to get more shooters and ball-handlers on the floor.
Canaan had 12 points, while Covington added 11 points and 14 rebounds. Rookie center Jahlil Okafor finished with a team-high 19 points.
The Sixers also posted 14 blocked shots to tie the season high for NBA teams. It was also the most against the Celtics (8-7) since 2007.
"They wanted to win the ball game and they were very confident," Boston swingman Jae Crowder said. "I remember Isaiah [Thomas] saying, 'Man, they're talking smack.' They had the right to talk smack, because they were beating us, so Isaiah was like, 'We have to step up right here, fellas,' and that's what we tried to do. . . . They felt pretty good about themselves – especially late."
Thomas scored 11 of his game-high 30 points in the fourth quarter. Former Sixer Evan Turner (16 points) ignited a game-ending 9-0 run with a pair of foul shots to trim the Sixers' lead to three points (80-77) with 1:36 left.
Crowder's three-pointer with 38.5 seconds left gave the Celtics an 82-80 advantage. That play came after the Sixers committed their fifth turnover in six possessions.
But they still had a chance to win.
The Sixers drew up a play for Okafor to get the ball during a timeout with 11 seconds remaining. However, reserve point guard Phil Pressey, a former Celtic, broke the play off when he saw that Okafor was pushed out of his spot.
"Unfortunately, I couldn't make the shot," said Pressey, who settled for a step-back jumper with 2.8 seconds left.
Thomas hit a pair of foul shots with 1.4 seconds left to give the Celtics a four-point cushion.
"We've got to do a better job of closing out games," said Noel, who finished with three points and eight rebounds. "We had some things tonight that we should have capitalized on – some loose balls, a few miscommunications, opens threes, and they take the lead like that. It's just mental concentration."