The 76ers looked relieved as they hugged and high-fived at center court, a giant weight removed from their shoulders.
For the first time all season, Philadelphia did something every other team has done at least thrice already – win.
The 76ers conquered the fallible Timberwolves, 85-77, Wednesday – halting their losing streak at 17 games and narrowly avoiding matching the 2009-10 New Jersey Nets with the worst start to an NBA season.
- 2009-10 New Jersey Nets, 0-18
- 2013-14 Philadelphia 76ers, 0-17
- 1999 Los Angeles Clippers, 0-17
- 1988-89 Miami Heat, 0-17
- 1994-95 Los Angeles Clippers, 0-16
- 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers, 0-15
- 1970-71 Cleveland Cavaliers, 0-15
- 1949-50 Denver Nuggets, 0-15
Some Philadelphia players attempted to stifle their joy as others sported giant grins, and it seemed everyone eventually realized it was OK to celebrate. The 76ers are still the NBA’s laughing stock, and they’re no danger of losing the league’s worst record – or as they might put it, No. 1 lottery seed. But after such a grueling start – and knowing how difficult the task remains – Philadelphia deserves to soak in this one in.
“We can compete in this league,” said Michael Carter-Williams, who had 20 points, nine rebounds and nine assists. “A lot of people doubt us, and I know our record, that stands for it. But we’ve just got to keep working and keep fighting.”
This win didn’t come easy.
The 76ers overcame hilarity (starting the game attacking the wrong basket as the Timberwolves defended it) and errors (blowing a 12-point lead).
They shot 39 percent from the field, 21 percent from beyond the arc and 64 percent from the free-throw line. The NBA’s worst-shooting teams shoot 41, 30 and 67 percent from those areas.
And, you guessed it, Philadelphia holds the bottom mark for two of those categories. Only the hapless Pistons keep the 76ers from the bottom-ranked field-goal percentage.
They had more turnovers (18) than assists (15). Even the NBA’s most careless team – yup, Philadelphia again – has a positive assist-to-turnover ratio.
These poor numbers are a product of an extremely flawed team, one that began the season 0-17 for a reason.
The 76ers are building toward something greater. Before they can ever reach that point, the critics will return as Philadelphia chases the 2011-12 Charlotte Bobcats (7-59) for the season-long record for futility. The 76ers are hardly out of the woods, and that realization will set in soon enough.
But they’re also in the win column – and tonight, that’s all that matters.