Analyzing the Sixers 26-game losing streak

MCW and Thad Young

26 games, 58 days, and nearly two months. That’s the length of time the Sixers spent losing. Do you think they got sick of it? Yeah probably, and it finally reached the point where it boiled over and they demolished the pathetic-looking Detroit Pistons at home by 25 points. No, I didn’t think they’d ever win again this season, but a firm confirmation that they have a lot of heart like that was the best way to win. I’m proud of them. (Yes, this analysis is a bit late, but I needed time to recover from the streak).

But by no means should this winning streak be glorified. Just because it’s a streak doesn’t mean it’s a good one. They lost 26 games in a row. That’s almost 32%, nearly a third of the season, in a row where they didn’t win a single game. That’s pretty bad no matter what, and it’s no surprise that it was tied for the longest losing streak in NBA history.

Since the beginning of that losing streak, the personnel has changed a whole lot. The first loss of the streak was on Friday, January 31 at home against the Hawks where they lost by 26 points. This seems like a typical game from them, right? Well, no matter how many times they’ve lost by 20+ points, their average loss is only by 10.9 points. I guess it’s not surprising that Thad Young led the team in points that game with 29, right? Well, what about if I said that Lavoy Allen had a double double in that game? (No, that’s not a joke, he actually did).

Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes were also still both on the team, combining for a measly 12 points. I guess that part isn’t terribly surprising, is it? Regardless, the team looked a lot different at the beginning of this streak than it does now. Guys like Henry Sims, James Nunnally, Casper Ware, Jarvis Varnado, and Byron Mullens are all on the team now. Some of those guys weren’t even in the country when the Sixers’ streak started (yes, I’m talking about you Ware). Other guys like Lorenzo Brown, Eric Maynor, Danny Granger, and Darius Johnson-Odom all came and left within that streak. In fact, Granger never even played a game for them.

That’s a huge change in a team for just a third of the season, but it’s not too surprising for a team that’s rebuilding more than any other team right now. As for the actual streak, it may not have been the record, but it was definitely legen….wait for it…dary! (That’s my shout out to How I Met Your Mother. I’m sorry to see you end). All references aside, there were times when the Sixers looked like the worst team ever, and there were times when it looked like they would beat the best team in the East at the time, the Pacers. A whole lot changed within that streak, and there’s no doubt it was a real character-builder.

This streak is generally characterized by a special type of awfulness, especially on defense. They gave up over 100 points in 22/26 games during this streak, over 110 in 15/26, and over 120 in 9/26. That’s absolutely horrible. The most famous part of the streak was when they lost back-to-back games by over 40 points to the Clippers and Warriors. At that point, it didn’t even look like they were trying to play basketball. It looked like everyone had packed it in (in the beginning of February, about two months early) and given up on this year. Yes, this year was never supposed to be anything other than a bad season where they’d get a lottery pick, but I don’t think anyone involved thought they’d lose 26 in a row. Nobody.

Although after those two losses, I was surprised that they even showed up to any of the games. I’d be so embarrassed if I were them at how poorly they played and represented their team. Over this streak, they lost to 21 different teams (more than half the league!). They also lost to the Jazz, Magic, Knicks, Bulls, and Pacers all twice. I can understand the last two, but the Jazz, Magic, and Knicks are three of the worst teams in the league. And these were consistent double-digit losses on most occasions. They even lost to the league-worst Bucks by 20, giving up a whopping 130 points in the process.

Yes, the Sixers average a league-worst -10.8 point differential for their games (meaning they lost by almost 11 points per game), but they lost by double digit points 19/26 games during the streak. They also lost 9 of those games by 20+ points. That’s crazy. There average loss during this streak was by 16.9 points. To put that into perspective, that’s worse than the average loss of the Charlotte Bobcats during their NBA record worst season. During the Cavaliers 2010-2011 26-game losing streak, their average loss was only by 13.8 points. Yeah. The Sixers actually went on an insane streak towards the end of 3 games where they lost by single digits. It was obvious they were trying again, right? Well, I don’t think that’s all of it…

Sure, two of those three teams were the Bulls and Pacers (top teams in the East), but I think their streak finally came to an end because of more pressure on other teams, not pressure on themselves. Sure, the Sixers were under a lot of pressure not to have the longest losing streak in NBA history, but did they really care if it happened? No, probably not. They were going to lose a lot anyway, and after two months of losing, it all feels the same. I think the most pressure was on their opponent each night; no team wanted to be that team that allowed the Sixers to end their losing streak.

And in the end, the Pistons were that team. They were the second team to beat the Sixers during the streak, and the first to end it. They actually beat them by 17 in that first meeting; a 113-96 loss that was a typical score for the Sixers. And somehow, the Sixers first win in so long wasn’t just by a point or two. It was by 25 points! Yes, the Pistons are a bad and beatable team, but losing by 25 to the Sixers? They should be kicked out of the league for that.

There is no doubt that this will be remembered for a while, but at the same time, it will be quickly forgotten if the Sixers are able to make an impact next year with an almost brand new roster. Yes, it is a tough time to be a Sixers fan, but it will only get better. This losing streak won’t happen again.

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