HOUSTON — Things have gone from bad to tied for worst for the 76ers.
They matched the record for consecutive losses by a U.S. professional team Thursday night with their 26th defeat in a row. The Houston Rockets beat them, 120-98, at the Toyota Center.
They equaled the futility run established by the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 1976 and 1977 seasons. The Cleveland Cavaliers tied that record and a set an NBA mark with 26 straight losses during the 2010-11 season.
The Sixers have not won since Evan Turner’s buzzer-beater bested the Boston Celtics on Jan. 29.
On this night, the Sixers (15-57) never really had a chance.
James Harden did whatever he wanted before he sat out the fourth quarter. The all-star guard finished with 26 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds to mark the second triple-double of his career.
Also scoring in double figures for the Rockets were Terrence Jones (20), Dwight Howard (17 points, 13 rebounds, 3 blocks), Chandler Parsons (16) and reserve Donatas Motiejunas (13).
James Anderson, who was waived by the Rockets in July, had his second 30-point scoring effort against his former team. He made 6 of 11 three-pointer to finish with 30 points. The shooting guard had a career-high 36 points in the Sixers’ 123-117 overtime win at the Wells Fargo Center on Nov. 13.
A loss Saturday against the Detroit Pistons at the Wells Fargo Center would give the Sixers sole possession of the record.
But the losses have not fazed this team — at least not publicly.
“As this thing has moved along and gained momentum, I want these guys to be proud of themselves,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said. “I want them to hold their head high and know that they’ve given their best effort.
“They are doing everything we have asked them to do and (are) continuing to get better. ... As I said we don’t talk about streaks. We don’t even mention it to them.”
However, it’s hard for the Sixers not to recognize that they’re making history.
The New York Times followed the team around for three days earlier this week in San Antonio, Texas. ESPN had a crew at this game. And the network has been poking fun of the team after each of their losses lately.
However, sacrificing wins has been part of the team’s plan since Sam Hinkie was hired as general manager in May. The Sixers are using this season for player development, evaluating talent and developing a culture. In the process, they hope to lose enough games to secure a top pick in the NBA draft in June.
“I think the goal from the beginning has been clear: to compete and build something special for Philadelphia,” said Hinkie, a former executive with the Rockets. “That requires us to be focused on things that maybe others aren’t focused on to keep everyone looking toward what we think can really help us be successful in the long term.”
Most of the players on the Sixers’ roster won’t be around when this team is finished rebuilding. But they’ll be remembered for playing on a squad that set a futility record.
“I’m not concerned with that,” Thaddeus Young said.
The power forward is the only remaining member of 2011-12 team that came one victory short of reaching the Eastern Conference finals.
“ A lot of people will remember certain things,” Young said. “And I think a lot of people won’t remember certain things.
“I think the majority of people, once we get back into our winning ways and this franchise gets back to contending for playoff spots and a championship, it all goes out of the window. People don’t realize it until it comes up again when another team (goes) ... on the same type of losing streak.”
The Rockets started to put away the game with a 20-6 run at the end of the half. That gave them a 63-49 advantage. Houston extended the lead to 27 points (100-73) after Harden’s three-pointer with 2 minutes, 49 seconds left in the third quarter.
Reserve center Byron Mullens of the Sixers sprained his right ankle in the second quarter and did not return.
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