From the end of the 2014-15 season through the start of the 2015-16 campaign, the Sixers lost 23 straight road games, the longest road losing streak in franchise history.
From the end of the 2015-16 campaign through Thursday, the Sixers also lost 23 straight road games.
In New Orleans, the Sixers faced the ignominious task of winning on the road for the first time in 24 tries and on the back of Joel Embiid, Ersan Ilyasova and Sergio Rodriguez, the Sixers pulled out a resounding 99-88 victory over the Pelicans, their fifth win of the season and their first on the road since Jan. 20, 2016.
Brett Brown’s squad bettered its record to 5-18 through 23 games, including 4-11 at the Wells Fargo Center this season, and now 1-7 on the road.
Embiid wasn’t his best against the Pels, finishing with 14 points on just 5-for-15 shooting from the floor, with no threes on five attempts in his much ballyhooed match-up with Anthony Davis. But Embiid was active in other ways, especially on defense, where he led the game with four blocked shots, pulling down seven boards.
“I’m looking at his numbers, and what we all should look at is his plus/minus,” Brown said of Embiid’s night. “That is massive — plus 27 for Joel Embiid in the game, although it wasn’t jaw-dropping numbers.”
Brown lauded the rest of the team for stepping up as well, especially in transition.
“I think the things we’ve been talking a lot about in this third set of 10 games, where we’ve got to focus on transition defense. They had 12 points, two came in the last 30 seconds. We spoke about turnovers. We only had 10. So if you can play that type of transition defense and have that few turnovers…there were some good efforts within the team, but I think those stats collectively, along with the 27 assists, were just sort of… everybody played. It was a true team effort.”
By record, the win on Thursday means the Sixers officially tied, but didn’t break, the worst road stretch in team history. And yet, the numbers during this recent run (er, stumble) illustrate how much worse it really was.
The Sixers lost every road game they played from Jan. 27, 2016 through Dec. 6, 2016. Obviously the team didn’t play games during much of that stretch, with an entire off-season in between some losses, but if we’re counting the actual calendar days between road wins — and we are, because we did — this recent run spanned 317 of them.
The last 23-game road losing streak went from March 29, 2015 — toward the end of the 18-win 2014-15 season — through Dec. 26, 2015, when the Sixers beat the Suns for their first road win of the year last season. That span between road wins was more compact, totaling 272 days, or 45 fewer than the run that just ended. (Editor’s note: I have no idea how that’s possible either, but I swear I checked this three times to make sure.)
Perhaps the most demeaning stat that made this recent streak worse was the sheer lack of competitiveness in most of the games.
Of the just completed stretch of 23-straight road losses, the Sixers were within five points just four times and within 10 points just nine times. Brown’s bunch was outscored 2,605-2,281 in those games, or 113.3-99.2 per game, an average of just over 14 points per loss.
In the previous 23-loss streak, the Sixers had at least a modicum of competitiveness, losing seven of those games by five or less, keeping 13 within 10 points. They were outscored in those games 2,364-2,114, or 102.8-91.9 per game, an average of just under 11 points per loss.
Neither is good. Losing 23 in a row on the road is horrific, but when comparing the two recent stretches, the one that ended Thursday was worse.
How did we get here? How over the last few years of Trusting the Process did the Sixers have two 23-game losing streaks on the road that span three seasons? From a historical perspective…how is that even possible?!?!
This is how. (Takes deep breath.) Over the last three campaigns, including the 41 road games last season, the 41 the season before last and the eight games this year, the Sixers are 10-80 on the road.
The Sixers are 1-7 this year. They were 3-38 last season. They were 6-35 the year before that.
In Brown’s first year, the Sixers were 9-32 on the road, which seems like championship caliber given the recent run, and means since The Process started in earnest, the Sixers are 19-112 away from WFC.
Even the 1972-73 team wasn’t this bad. The worst basketball team in professional history won nine games in 1972-73, losing a record 73, but even they only had a consecutive road loss streak of 15 games. With a nine-gamer before that. And a 13-gamer before that.
From Oct. 10 through Nov. 19, 1972, the Sixers lost 13-straight road games. Then they won one, against the Buffalo Braves, before dropping nine more road contests. Then they won another, against the Seattle SuperSonics, before dropping 15 more to end the season.
Unlike the two recent Sixers runs, that spanned two seasons, the 1973-74 Sixers won their first road game…before dropping the next seven.
Since moving to Philadelphia, the only other time the franchise had nearly this many consecutive losses away from home was the 1987-88 season, when head coach Matt Goukas was replaced 43 games into the season by Jim Lynam, just about halfway through a 20-game road losing streak. That team finished 36-46, winning 27 of their 41 games at home.
This year’s team is hardly that good at home, at just 4-11 through 15 games, but the season is young. There’s still time to improve both the home and road records, and the hope is that another 23-game stretch is not in the team’s future, if we’re trusting processes, and all.