HOUSTON – After the Philadelphia 76ers tied an NBA record with their 26th consecutive loss, one of their youngest voices spoke loudest.
Michael Carter-Williams, one of six rookies on the NBA’s youngest team, delivered a pep talk after James Harden’s triple-double led the Houston Rockets to a 120-98 victory on Thursday night.
“During the game a couple of guys had long faces . . . and I found myself a little bit down,” said Carter-Williams, who had 10 assists. “I just don’t want anyone in this locker room feeling bad for themselves . . . I think that’s really important that we don’t get down on ourselves and we just give up just because we have a certain amount of losses.
“I just felt like I needed to speak my piece and make sure that guys are upbeat every single day.”
Philadelphia coach Brett Brown was impressed by the leadership the 22-year-old Carter-Williams showed.
“He never would have done that two months ago,” Brown said. “He wouldn’t have done it two weeks ago. All these things, all these small wins we find along the way, that’s our road map this year. And life moves on. The group will stay together and we will finish this thing out together.”
Harden had 26 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in three quarters for his second career triple-double as Houston picked up its fifth straight victory.
“We did a great job of coming out tonight and taking care of business,” Harden said. “No matter what their record was, we knew they were going to come here and play hard.”
The 76ers (15-57) stuck around early before a big second-quarter run allowed the Rockets to pull away and roll to the win. Philadelphia moved within a game of Milwaukee for the league’s worst record.
Philadelphia matched the 2010-11 Cleveland Cavaliers for the NBA’s worst skid and can set the record at home against Detroit on Saturday.
“We move on,” Brown said. “We are on a different path. We see this whole thing through a far different lens.”
James Anderson led the Sixers with 30 points and made six 3-pointers.
Philadelphia hasn’t won since Jan. 29 and is two games away from going winless in two straight months. There was very little visible emotion as the final seconds ticked away and the players slowly made their way off the court.
Dwight Howard added 17 points with 13 rebounds for Houston. Terrence Jones had 20 points.
Brown addressed the dreadful stretch before the game and he isn’t interested in anyone’s pity.
“I hope they feel good about themselves,” he said. “I don’t want anyone feeling sorry for us or hanging our head … we are going through something and we will get through it together.”
According to STATS LLC, the longest streaks in the other major sports are held by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, losers of 26 in a row from Sept. 12, 1976-Dec. 4, 1977 in the NFL; MLB’s Philadelphia Phillies, who lost 23 straight from Jan. 29, 1961-Aug. 20, 1961; and the Pittsburgh Penguins in the NHL with 18 losses in a row from Jan. 13, 2004-Feb. 22, 2004.
Trail Blazers 100, Hawks 85
In Atlanta, LaMarcus Aldridge had 25 points and 16 rebounds in his return from a back injury, and Portland beat the Hawks to end a three-game losing streak.
Damian Lillard added 21 points for the Trail Blazers, who had lost seven of 10 and were in danger of falling out of the fifth spot in the Western Conference playoff standings.
Clippers 109, Mavericks 103
In Dallas, Chris Paul scored 31 points, Blake Griffin added 18 points and 13 rebounds, and Los Angeles rallied from a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter.
The Clippers have won all three meetings, with second-half rallies in each game. On Thursday, the teams combined for six technical fouls charged to players on the floor, three on each team.
Bucks 108, Lakers 105
In Milwaukee, Brandon Knight scored 30 points, Ramon Sessions added 22 and the Bucks ended an eight-game losing streak.