Playing hard hasn't really been the question for this team of late, and it wasn't against Houston. Again, it was the disparity in talent that was the difference, and it showed mostly during a stretch of 7 minutes and 29 seconds to end the first half.
At that time, the Sixers trailed by just 40-39. Then Dwight Howard and James Harden reentered the game. The Rockets finished out the quarter on a 23-10 run and secured the record-tying loss for the Sixers (15-57).
"As this thing has moved along and gained momentum, I've tried to approach it quite consistently," said coach Brett Brown. "I want these guys to be proud of themselves. I want them to hold their heads high and know that they've given it their best effort and that they're doing everything that we've asked them to do in continuing to get better. After that, I don't talk about streaks. We don't even mention it to them.
"This is one of the unfortunate byproducts that has come our way. If we had sprinkled our 15 wins a little bit differently, it wouldn't have received as much attention as it has been receiving. And fair enough. But we haven't changed our tune or changed our message because of that.
"You realize that you're coaching a bunch of young players. You're coaching players that have been 1 year in college or very experienced by their AAU experience. You're not looking over and seeing Manu Ginobili or Tim Duncan or Tony Parker and that's fine by me.
"I knew what I signed up for. This is no shock. I had the opportunity to research this position for several months and I like the risk/reward. If we can ever get it right in such a fantastic city, the city will come out and support us. It's very difficult coaching these young people and you have to figure out the best way that they can learn. I hope we've done that. I love coaching the group."
James Anderson, who scored 36 points against the Rockets earlier this season, scored 30 against his old team last night to lead the Sixers. Henry Sims had 18 points and Thaddeus Young scored 15 and grabbed nine rebounds.
James Harden had 26 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists (without playing in the fourth quarter) for his second career triple-double and Dwight Howard had 17 points (on 6-for-6 shooting) and 13 rebounds for Houston, which improved to 49-22. Terrence Jones had 20 points and Chandler Parson added 16 for the Rockets.
"I'm not sure the sun comes up after 25 losses," said Rockets coach Kevin McHale. "It's hard. I feel bad for Sam Hinkie. But they're in the process of retooling and doing stuff. But that's a long streak.
"I've watched them and they play hard. They play pretty free, they shoot a lot of threes and they get up and down. They're not mailing them in."
Byron Mullens sprained his left ankle in the first quarter and did not retur n . . . Casper Ware scored his first NBA points on a three-pointer in the first quarter. He ended the quarter by stripping James Harden of the ball then connecting on a halfcourt heave as the first quarter ended . . . Former Sixer and Rocket Moses Malone was in the Toyota Center for the game.