For the Philadelphia 76ers, it’s wake us up when November ends
The Philadelphia 76ers fell to the Indiana Pacers in overtime Wednesday, their seventh consecutive defeat to start the season.
That the Sixers are struggling to win is not a surprise, as abject futility has been a trademark of this team for the last several years. But as the losses, once again, pile up, Philly’s ongoing level of early-season incompetence has shifted from laughable to disturbing.
That’ll happen when you go almost three full years without a pre-December victory.
The last time the Sixers won a game in October or November was Nov. 22, 2013 — 1,084 days ago. That win, in overtime against the Bucks, was one of a half-dozen during the first few weeks of the 2013-14 season for Philly, which entered that December at 6-11.
The celebration was short-lived, however, wiped away as quickly as any optimism that came with Philly’s 3-0 start to that campaign. The Sixers followed up the win over Milwaukee with a loss at Indiana the next night, and for 43 more October and November games since, the chorus has been the same.
It almost seems unfathomable that any team — even the lowly Sixers — could lose 44 consecutive games in a given month or months. But Philadelphia, which started the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons 0-17 and 0-18, respectively, has not only done that but done it without being especially competitive as the streak dragged on.
The 44 losses in question have come by an average of 13.2 points. Half have been by double digits and nine have been by 25 points or more, including a 53-point rout by the Dallas Mavericks in November 2014. And though there have been a handful of close calls, including a one-point loss to Cleveland and a two-point loss to Orlando earlier this month, they’ve been few and far between.
If this is part of a “Process,” it’s not one most basketball players would want to be a part of.
By comparison, New Orleans has been the NBA’s next-worst October-November team since the Sixers’ last pre-December win. But even the Pelicans, who are currently 0-8, have 12 such wins since Nov. 23, 2013. New Orleans is followed closely by the Lakers (13 wins), Nets (15), Timberwolves (15), Knicks (15) and Pistons (18), but the rest of the league has won at least 20 games in that span.
Golden State, as it happens, leads the league with 40 October-November wins since Philadelphia last won one.
And though it’s easy to point and laugh at the Sixers’ prolonged, profound misery and write it off as a common side effect of tanking, it’s also worth noting that what they’re currently doing isn’t something that typically happens. In fact, it’s virtually unheard of for a team to go so much a single month without a win, much less to go winless in the same month for three consecutive years.
This year’s Pelicans notwithstanding, the last time a team other than Philadelphia that went a full calendar month without a victory — meaning October and April, the season’s two short months, are ruled out — was in January 2011, when the Cavs were 0-16, part of a 26-game losing streak in the team’s first season after LeBron James left for Miami.
Before that, you’d have to go back to November 2009, when the Nets, then in New Jersey, lost 18 straight to start the season, then finished 12-70. (Incidentally, the 76ers went 0-for-February in 2014, part of a 26-game losing streak of their own. And in 2011, neither Washington nor Minnesota won a game in December, but the 2011-12 season didn’t start until Christmas due to a lockout.)
Yet here we are, with Philadelphia somehow closing in on the third anniversary of its last pre-December win without anything resembling a guaranteed win on the immediate horizon.
This Friday, the Sixers play host to the Pacers at home, then go on a two-game road swing through Atlanta and Houston, two of the hottest teams in the NBA to this point. A brief reprieve follows with matchups against the Wizards and Timberwolves (each 2-5 thus far), followed by home games against the underperforming Suns and Heat to round out the Sixers’ schedule through Nov. 22.
At a glance, it looks reasonable that Philadelphia could steal a win in at least one of those latter four contests, thereby ending its baffling drought. But considering the historic wave the team is riding, it would be dangerous to go so far as to expect it.
You can follow Sam Gardner on Twitter or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.