Philadelphia 76ers v Houston Rockets

Sixers tie NBA record with 26th consecutive loss, this one at hands of Rockets

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The last time the Philadelphia 76ers won a basketball game we were going to spend the next four days talking about how Peyton Manning was going to carve up the Seahawks defense. We had nine more days of hype until the Sochi Winter Olympics opened (and one Olympic ring didn’t).

Since Jan. 29 the Philadelphia 76ers have not won a game — that stretch reached 26 in a row at the hands of the Rockets Thursday night, 120-98.

That ties the NBA record set by the 2010-11 Cleveland Cavaliers. The Sixers can break the record and own the dubious distinction outright Saturday night when they host the Detroit Pistons.

Loss 26, like so many of the losses before it, was simply a matter of the more talented team exerting itself. The Sixers went into this season looking to compile draft picks and be bad so those picks had value. The result is that most nights Philadelphia is outclassed.

The Rockets start All-Star Dwight Howard at center, the Sixers start Henry Sims, a guy who has bounced around between the NBA and the D-League and was a throw in as part of the Spencer Hawes trade with the Cavaliers. The Rockets have James Harden — who had a triple double of 26 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists — while the Sixers gave pretty good run to 10-day contract guys Casper Ware (22 minutes) and James Nunnally (18).

The Sixers tried to show some fight early on. It was 43-43 as the Sixers were hanging around midway through the second quarter, but then Howard (5-of-5 for 15 points in the first half) and Harden returned to the game and led a 20-6 run to pull away 63-49 lead at the half. Houston shot 52 percent and had 20 fast break points in the first half.

You had a feeling how the second half would go… and it did. Houston blew it open in the third quarter, scoring 37 points (to the Sixers 31) and it was 100-80 at the end of three. The fourth quarter was just garbage time.

Like the last couple months, really.

James Anderson put up 20 on the Rockets for the Sixers, he has big games against them. But that was about the only performance of positive note.

I’d say Sixers fans should blame management for this mess, except most of them seem to be on board with “Team Tank.” They will not be booing the Sixers if they lose on Saturday and set a new record, they will be cheering. This is Philly — they are both harsh and smart fans. They know (or at least hope) this is temporary. This makes more sense to them then cheering for Mark Sanchez.

The Sixers players, they will just keep trying. And one night they will not be overmatched. One night they will win.

J.B. Bickerstaff calls Rockets ‘broken team,’ ‘fragmented bunch’

Houston Rockets interim head coach J.B. Bickerstaff rubs his head in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Washington Wizards, Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, in Houston. The Wizards won 123-122. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)
AP Photo/Pat Sullivan
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Rockets interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff has been unafraid to sharply assess his team.

But after last night’s loss to the Trail Blazers – Houston’s third straight defeat and sixth in eight games – Bickerstaff kicked up the rhetoric even further.

Bickerstaff, via Calvin Watkins of ESPN:

“We’re broken,” Bickerstaff said. “It’s that simple. We’re a broken team, and we all need to use this break to figure out how we’re going to impact change. If we don’t want to impact change, then we need to be made aware of that, too, and we’ll go in a different direction.

“We can’t continue to go out and play this way. It’s easy to see it’s a fragmented bunch. You can’t win that way.”

This is why Dwight Howard is on the trade block. The Rockets are so incohesive, there’s no simple solution in sight. This increasingly looks like a lost season for Houston, which should emphasize future planning – like dealing Howard, who can become an unrestricted free agent at age 30 this summer.

Yet, the Rockets are just a half game from playoff position. They obviously dreamed much bigger when the season began, but at this point, merely making the postseason should qualify as a success.

It’s Bickerstaff’s job to get them there, no matter how unlikely. He has certainly shown little fear in trying, whether it’s giving these quotes or pulling all five starters simultaneously shortly into a game. He’s trying to put his mark on this team.

The players just aren’t responding, not more than periodically, at least. From James Harden down, nobody plays with the requisite focus and energy.

Nothing in Bickerstaff’s assessment is surprising. It’s just surprising he said it so bluntly publicly.

Then again, that’s nothing compared to what veteran Houston guard Jason Terry said. Eric Ringering of 750 The Game:

https://twitter.com/ringering45/status/697664478993756164

Devin Booker to replace Nerlens Noel in Rising Stars at All-Star Weeekend

Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker reacts after hitting a 3-point shot against the San Antonio Spurs during the third quarter of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Jan. 21, 2016, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
AP Photo/Rick Scuteri
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Sixers big man Nerlens Noel — who has looked much improved this season once Ish Smith was feeding him the rock on offense — sat out the Sixers game Wednesday night due to tendonitis in his right knee. After he missed his rookie season with knee issues, you can understand why the Sixers want him to be cautious.

Noel is going to sit out All-Star Weekend as well — he had been scheduled to play in the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday night, but he is going to sit that out and Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns will take his place, the league has announced (Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic broke that story).

Booker has been one of the few bright spots for the Suns this season, averaging 10.6 points a game and shooting 40.3 percent from three.

He will play for the USA in the World vs. USA format of the Rising Stars Challenge (the former rookie/sophomore game, featuring first and second year players).

With Emmanuel Mudiay replacing Patrick Beverley, NBA reveals Skills Challenge bracket

Houston Rockets' Patrick Beverley (2) knocks the ball away from Denver Nuggets' Emmanuel Mudiay (0) in the first half of a NBA basketball game Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015, in Houston. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)
AP Photo/Pat Sullivan
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Out: Defending champion Patrick Beverley.

In: Emmanuel Mudiay Emmanuel Mudiay.

The NBA confirmed the Rockets guard would miss the Skills Challenge and that Mudiay would replace him. The league also release the bracket:

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My picks:

Quarterfinals

Semifinals

  • Isaiah Thomas over C.J. McCollum
  • Anthony Davis over Draymond Green

Final

  • Isaiah Thomas over Anthony Davis

NBA suspends Hassan Whiteside for elbowing Boban Marjanovic’s head

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Hassan Whiteside lost his cool and elbowed Boban Marjanovic in the head Tuesday.

The Heat center received a flagrant 2 and an ejection, and now he’s getting the rest of his punishment.

NBA release:

Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside has been suspended one game without pay for throwing an elbow and making contact with the head of San Antonio Spurs center Boban Marjanovic, it was announced today by Kiki VanDeWeghe, Executive Vice President, Basketball Operations.

The incident, for which Whiteside was assessed a Flagrant 2 and ejected, occurred with 9:35 remaining in the fourth quarter of the Spurs’ 119-101 win over the Heat at AmericanAirlines Arena on Feb. 9.

Whiteside will serve his suspension when Miami plays the Atlanta Hawks on Feb. 19 at Philips Arena.

The suspension will cost Whiteside $8,921. As a result, the Heat – in line to become the first team in NBA history to pay the repeater luxury-tax rate – trim their impending tax bill by $24,534.

More importantly for Whiteside, this will be a strike against him for teams considering offering him a big contract in free agency this summer.