Losing franchises find new ways to drop games. Whistles go silent from referees. Shots don’t go in at crucial moments down the stretch. Turnovers get committed at the worst possible time.
All of these factors are plaguing the Philadelphia 76ers.
The Sixers overcame an 18-point deficit and had a terrific chance of upsetting the defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers before a raucous sellout crowd Saturday night at the Wells Fargo Center.
But six turnovers in the final three minutes, a noncall against Gerald Henderson and some clutch baskets by the Cavaliers proved to be too much to overcome in a frustrating one-point loss.
The Sixers fell to 0-5 and lost for the 42nd consecutive time in October or November, dating to an overtime victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Nov. 22, 2013. Last season, the Sixers started 0-18 and 1-30. They’re 47-204 since head coach Brett Brown took over three-plus seasons ago.
“We really do need a win,” said Sixers rookie center Joel Embiid. “I thought we should have three wins by now. But that’s basketball. Great players make plays.”
Embiid showed flashes of brilliance with 22 points, six rebounds, four blocks and going 4-for-4 from beyond the arc in 25 minutes. Imagine how his stat line would play out over a 48-minute game. It’s chilling in a great way.
That’s the good news.
“He’s a good player,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said of Embiid. “He’s a big, strong guy. He’s physical. I thought our guys battled. We wanted to save it for the right time to double-team him.”
It’s back to the drawing board for the struggling Sixers, who will host the Utah Jazz on Monday night followed by a home-and-home Wednesday and Friday with the Indiana Pacers.
“The sad part is when you look at the complete body of work, especially after the first period, there’s a lot of great stuff that came out of it with these guys,” Brown said.
A one-point loss to the defending champions counts the same as a 35-point blowout. There have been encouraging signs like Embiid’s progress and a solid performance from Jahlil Okafor (14 points).
At some point, the Sixers simply need a win. Otherwise, the players and head coach will continue to get peppered with questions they don’t particularly enjoy answering. No one likes talking about losing streaks all the time.
To be fair, the Sixers are missing No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons along with Jerryd Bayless and Nerlens Noel. Until the team is complete, wins will likely be scarce.
But this one was there to be grabbed. It fell through.
“They’re obviously a good defensive team and I think it kind of comes with experience,” said Sixers guard Gerald Henderson. “I don’t know if we’ve been in that kind of situation too many times where we know how important the ball is but at the end of the game and you’re not going to get any more possessions to make it up. You have to make the most out of the ones you have at that moment. We didn’t really do that.”
The Sixers have played five games with four at home. They are still without a win. Moral victories aren’t good enough anymore.