The Philadelphia 76ers' long wait for a win is over. After 18 games of ineptitude, frustration, and blown leads, the Sixers finally got off the schneid with a 103-91 victory over the West-worst Los Angeles Lakers at the Wells Fargo Center. The 1-18 Sixers ensured that they will merely share the record for worst start to a season with the 2009-10 New Jersey Nets, who finished that campaign 12-70. Tuesday's win also ends a U.S.-record 28-game losing streak that began last season.
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Philadelphia got the job done by eschewing the bad habits of their previous five losses, all of which involved sizable second-half leads blown in crunch time. Tuesday was very different in that it was the Sixers who had to fight back from a notable deficit. Down 57-43 with 1:47 remaining in the second quarter, the Sixers closed the first half strong and out-scored the Lakers 30-17 in the third quarter to enter the final period up 80-75. A good start built the margin up to 12 within several minutes, and the Sixers weathered a minor comeback to come away with the victory. This Jerami Grant breakaway dunk finished the scoring and served as an exclamation point:
Grant performed well with 14 points on 6-of-7 FG and four blocks, but it was Robert Covington who starred for Philly with a game-high 23 on 5-of-11 shooting from beyond the arc. Despite the losses, the Sixers have been a much better team since Covington returned from a knee injury just over two weeks ago:
Point differential since Robert Covington returned on Nov. 16:Sixers -7.8Nuggets -8.9Bucks -10.3Lakers -15.1
— Kevin Pelton (@kpelton) December 2, 2015
It's probably not smart to predict many more wins for the Sixers in the future — they face the San Antonio Spurs next Monday, for one thing — but there is a hope that this victory will allow them to put the recent past behind and head towards more success. Whether that's possible with this roster remains to be seen, but they have at least escaped a historic level of futility. Plus, head coach Brett Brown will receive a fruit basket and other thoughtful gifts very soon.
Meanwhile, the Lakers are still stuck in their own peculiar version of purgatory. After a warm welcome and positive start to the game, Kobe Bryant finished with another grossly inefficient line (20 points on 7-of-26 FG and 4-of-17 3FG) in his first road game since announcing his forthcoming retirement. It can be argued that Kobe is holding back the young Lakers, but this contest offered few bright spots against a team that doesn't exactly ask much of its opponents. The lone positive was that the 2-15 Lakers increased the chances that they will not have to send their top-3-protected first-round draft pick to the Sixers this spring.
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