OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Nobody expected much from the Philadelphia 76ers this season.
Most figured Phila- delphia would finish near the bottom of the NBA standings, more likely to compete for a top pick in the draft lottery than a playoff spot, even in the underachieving Eastern Conference.
Suddenly, stunningly, the Sixers are somehow playing even worse than that.
While most of the country was sleeping, Philadelphia lost by a combined 88 points on consecutive nights in California. The end of this current rebuilding project has never seemed so far away.
“It’s hard for everybody,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said. “The reality of it is they have put in so much time and despite all the turmoil, it’s a group that’s been together, stayed together. At times, you look up and you have to keep going and keep on playing with some level of dignity, and it’s hard doing that.”
After losing 123-78 at the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday night in a game it trailed by 56 points in the third quarter, Philadelphia (15-38) figured it couldn’t get much worse.
It almost did.
Marreese Speights scored a career-high 32 points to hand his former team a near-record setback, leading the Golden State Warriors past the woeful 76ers 123-80 on Monday night.
By the time reporters were allowed in the visiting locker room at Oracle Arena, most of the 76ers already had cleared out.
The television in the center of the room was turned off. There were no box scores from the game on players’ chairs — which is typical after most NBA games — and there were no smiles to be had by anybody.
“Not going to turn on TV or read the papers,” forward Evan Turner said.
The Sixers started 3-0 this season — including a win over the two-time defending champion Miami Heat on opening night — that had some fans believing they could be far better than expected. The only real bright spot since has been the emergence of Michael Carter-Williams, who is making a strong case for NBA Rookie of the Year.
Any good vibes going were washed away in Philadelphia’s seventh straight loss.
The Sixers nearly matched the NBA mark for the largest total margin of defeat in consecutive games. The Detroit Pistons lost by 95 points combined in back-to-back games in November 1966, according to STATS.
“There is a respect for the game,” Brown said. “There is a pride for doing our jobs and an appreciation for the time we have spent together, which has been quality time, of them on the floor and in video rooms and individual instruction and recovery and all of that. The situation is real in regards to spending working time together, and I think, how do you keep (spirits) up? Who knows?”
No other team in NBA history has lost two straight games by at least 40 points each.
Now Philadelphia has done it twice.
The 76ers lost back-to-back games in April 1994 by a combined 93 points, and they’re struggling to explain — and correct — what has gone so wrong during this latest stretch.
“You just look up at the scoreboard and see a lot of points. I really don’t know,” Turner said.
Philadelphia finishes a three-game road trip tonight at Utah before heading into an All-Star break that can’t come soon enough.
Golden State outshot the Sixers 48.9 percent to 36.7 percent and outrebounded them 60-38 despite playing without center Andrew Bogut (left shoulder injury) and backup center Jermaine O’Neal (sore right wrist).
Brown said before the game that he was happy his team had a chance to quickly atone for its horrendous showing in Los Angeles. Instead, the 76ers had another embarrassing performance.
The defeat could’ve been much worse, too.
Warriors coach Mark Jackson put in most of his reserves before the fourth quarter, though the highlights didn’t stop from one of them. Speights made a step-back jumper to put Golden State up 107-58 with 9:41 to play before leaving to another ovation with 3:02 left.
Brown kept most of his starters in until the final minutes to slice the deficit down a little.
“Don’t anybody feel sorry for us,” Brown said. “We will wake up and be (OK) tomorrow.”