By Michael Donovan
The Sixers led in the fourth quarter for the fourth straight game last night in Houston, but James Hardin exploded for 50 points, nine rebounds and eight assists, and the Rockets won 116-114.
Hardin (fighting T. J. McConnell for a loose ball above) was 14 for 28 from the field and 16 for 20 at the line in his third career game with 50 or more points. He is averaging 36.2 points in his last five games.
“Just in attack mode,” he said. “Taking my shots, being aggressive.”
The Sixers moved one loss away from matching the New Jersey Nets’ NBA-worst mark of 18 losses to open a season. The Sixers have dropped 27 in a row dating to last season for the longest losing streak in major U.S. professional sports history, passing the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 1976 to `77. The previous record was also matched by the 76ers in 2013-14.
Robert Covington had 28 points and eight steals for Philly, which made a franchise-record 16 3-pointers in 35 attempts. One day removed from a Boston nightclub altercation, rookie Jahlil Okafor had 11 points and six rebounds.
Facing an 11-point deficit to start the fourth quarter, the 76ers opened the period on a 24-8 run to take a five-point lead.
Down by two with less than 3 seconds remaining, Covington intentionally missed a free throw that was rebounded by Houston’s Dwight Howard.
Harden led the Rockets to one of their best shooting performances of the season, helping Houston win for just the second time in its last nine games.
The Rockets shot 52 percent from the field, including an 11-for-20 night from beyond the arc. Howard added 14 points and 13 rebounds.
Philly scored 100 points for the first time in nearly three weeks and just the fourth time all season. Isaiah Canaan had 23 points, and Jerami Grant scored 18.
“A time’s going to come where we finally put everything together and come up with a victory,” Covington said.
Sixers coach Brett Brown praised the 6-foot-11 Okafor for selflessly asking him to keep the small lineup in the game as they rallied.
“It wasn’t some perfect, pretty offense – it was organized streetball,” Brown said. “And it got us back in it. It’s a tremendous example for the whole room to look around, and you just never know who’s going to be there at the end of games to make it happen.”
Nerlens Noel was a late scratch with right knee soreness. … SG Nik Stauskas returned from a one-game absence after suffering a knee contusion in Monday’s loss to Minnesota. … Canaan got his fifth start of the season over regular starter T.J. McConnell.