For the Sixers, it was no coincidence they had not won a game in exactly two months. After all, there are few coincidences in the NBA. The Sixers were getting creamed every night for two months for a reason.
It wasn’t like they were getting nicked at the buzzer or turning it over in the closing minutes to lose a game.
Saturday night’s 123-98 victory over the Detroit Pistons at the Wells Fargo Center unfolded just like every other game during the past two months — only in reverse. The Sixers made shots from the outside for a change and that opened up everything as they went wire-to-wire (see Instant Replay).
Buried in the hail of three-pointers and easy buckets was the Sixers’ record-tying 26-game losing skid. With a building packed for a chance to witness sports ignominy, the Sixers rained on the parade with 12 three-pointers, 14 steals and eight blocked shots.
Finally … a win.
“I’m happy for the players and I’m happy for the fans,” coach Brett Brown said. “I’m real happy for the players and I’m real happy for the fans.”
Still, Brown says the losing streak was never something the team discussed. It existed in a world the Sixers didn’t control.
“We haven’t mentioned it once,” Brown said. “We’ve talked about, ‘Let’s bang out great days’ and they’ll add up. Our group is staying together. They didn’t blink.”
The win was a long time in coming. So long that five players in uniform weren’t even members of the team when the losing streak began, and the hero of the last win, Evan Turner, has appeared in 19 games for the Indiana Pacers.
When the streak began the Sixers had a half-game advantage on the Celtics in the Atlantic and 6½ games on the Bucks for the worst record in the NBA. With a win, the Sixers trail Boston by 7½ games and lead the Bucks by two.
All that work and the Bucks still have a worse record than the Sixers. Loss after loss, in which they sometimes trailed by more than 40 points, the Sixers have took the lumps and the growing pains that go with a rebuild and kept it together. There hasn’t been any bickering amongst the players nor moments when the team was so beaten that they don’t want to show up for work the next day.
“It is what it is,” said Thad Young, who scored a game-high 21 points. “We just go out there and play.”
At least the streak is over.
“We haven’t hidden anything. This is who we are — we own it,” Brown said. “We never hid anything. This is who we are and we own it. You may not agree with it, but this is our path. This is our plan and I think that the city’s patience has been remarkable.”
The Sixers scored a season-best 70 points in the first half to roll to a 19-point lead. By the end of the third quarter the lead grew to 32 points, which led to a fourth quarter during which regulars Young, Michael Carter-Williams and James Anderson clocked a little more than three minutes.
Young and Hollis Thompson combined for six three-pointers and that opened up the offense. Carter-Williams scored 21 points with seven rebounds and big man Henry Sims also had seven boards with 16 points. Tony Wroten came off the bench to dish out nine assists as the Sixers shot 52.2 percent from the field and 57.1 percent from three-point range.
The Pistons were mailing it in much earlier. Brandon Jennings was ejected at the end of the first quarter after drawing two technical fouls and Josh Smith one of his own a quarter later. Though Greg Monroe had 20 points and 10 rebounds, the Pistons were dragging from a 32-point defeat in Miami on Friday night.
Detroit played as if they were already on the plane back home.
“There was no effort tonight,” Monroe said about the Pistons’ performance. “Absolutely no effort.”
That was fine by the Sixers. With losses in 26 straight and 29 of the last 30, including 18 straight home, the Sixers weren’t going to complain if an opponent wanted to roll over.
In the meantime, there were a lot of take-home points for the Sixers during the streak. There was a whatever-doesn’t-kill-us vibe about it that some players may wear as a badge down the road. Maybe during the good times in the future, players like Carter-Williams can look back and remember what they went through.
“I learned a lot of good things [during the losing streak],” Carter-Williams said. “I’ll never give up on my team, that my teammates will never give up on me, that we go in fighting every single day — in practices we go hard, and we just keep fighting. There was some emotion. I mean, of course we were happy to win again. It’s a great thing to be on the winning side.”
Maybe the Sixers are building a winning streak? They head off to Atlanta for a game on Monday before returning home to face Charlotte on Wednesday.