BOSTON • For weeks, there has been one lingering question surrounding the National Basketball Association: Can the Philadelphia 76ers win before the Golden State Warriors lose?
Unfortunately for the Sixers, they again failed to provide an affirming answer despite heading into the final minutes against Boston Celtics on Wednesday in the lead.
The home team's stunning late comeback sealed an 84-80 victory, condemning Philadelphia (0-16) to their 26th straight defeat dating back to last season to match the record for consecutive losses by a North American professional sports team.
The Sixers now have a shot at the all-time record of 18 consecutive losses at the start of an NBA season set by the 2009 New Jersey Nets.
"How many streaks have I been a part of?'" Sixers coach Brett Brown said. "I'm numb to it. I'm truly numb to it."
He last tasted victory with Philadelphia exactly eight months ago on Wednesday - against the Denver Nuggets. A long-awaited win looked on the cards when the visitors led by 11 midway through the fourth quarter, and by five with over two minutes left.
FIGURE IT OUT
26: The Philadelphia 76ers have lost 26 straight games dating back to last season, equalling the longest National Basketball Association (NBA) losing streak. The 2010-11 Cleveland Cavaliers and 2013-14 76ers also share the dubious honour.
1: First team to start 0-16 in back-to-back seasons.
8: Number of months gone by since Philadelphia last won.
98.5%: Win rate of NBA teams this term - before Wednesday's round of fixtures - who led by at least five points with two minutes remaining. The 76ers led by five with two minutes left.
But the Celtics (8-7) scored the last nine points, including a three-pointer by forward Jae Crowder that gave Boston the lead with 38.5 seconds left.
"We'll take it, but at the same time, we've got a lot of getting better to do," he said.
So too the Sixers - the youngest team in the NBA with an average age of 23.3 years.
They also blew leads in their previous two games. Having led 47-32 at Miami and 52-46 at Minnesota, they lost both by five points.
The Sixers also lost 26 in a row last season, starting 0-17.
The 2010-11 Cleveland Cavaliers also dropped 26 straight, as did the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of the National Football League in 1976-77.
However, Philadelphia centre Nerlens Noel insisted that they are not looking at the losing skid or the record books.
"Don't pay attention to it," he said. "Don't look at social media. You've got to be strong to be in this position, mentally and physically."
Rookie centre Jahlil Okafor led the Sixers with 19 points and nine rebounds and guard Isaiah Canaan had 12 points and five rebounds.
Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas led all scorers with 30 points and added six assists and four rebounds.
The Sixers attempt to snap their losing run at Houston (tomorrow morning, Singapore time).
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE