This one hurt.
I know it was Game 5. I know it's not even Halloween. I know Houston is a good team and has an MVP candidate. I know the Sixers are a young team that won 28 games last season, and it’s going to take some time. But the buzzer-beating loss to the Rockets Wednesday cut deep. And you know what? That’s a good thing.
There is a numbness, a callous if you will, that forms when you lose constantly. It grows particularly rough to the touch when you are losing on purpose. So sans maybe the 31 games Joel Embiid played last season, for the better part of the last four years when the Sixers dropped a game, my only reaction was that they were one step closer to the worst record and hopefully a No. 1 pick. It’s a pragmatic way to deal with countering your sporting heart. It’s a difficult process (yes, I said it) to turn off your immediate rooting interest and emotions in your team for something that may never develop down the line.
Sixers fans know this perhaps better than any other fan base with what they’ve lived through the last term of seasons. The problem with turning off that rooting spigot is it's sometimes difficult to re-engage it. Problem solved. Wednesday’s gut-punch of a loss was a stark reminder the agony of defeat is alive and well in Sixer-land. As the Eagles (Don Henley and Glenn Frey, not Carson Wentz and Fletcher Cox) once said, “You can check out any time you like but you can never leave." Eric Gordon’s three ball from the corner proved that. Until that dagger, the Wells Fargo Center was electric. Fans didn’t immediately leave because they were stunned. The ensuing shuffle to their cars and to the subway was zombie-like. That wasn’t the case the last couple of years. This one left a mark.
To lose an eight-point lead while failing to score a point in the game's final 3:05 is unacceptable. We’re beyond moral victories. They should have won that game. You can point the finger at so many things: Ben Simmons' unwillingness to shoot, JJ Redick's failure to knock down a shot, Embiid’s foolish goaltend, Brett Brown's decision to not call a timeout or to not foul in the final seconds. Or personnel groupings in general. You may need more than two hands for this one. It was a bad loss and there’s no sugarcoating it.
But let’s hold off on firing Brown. Hold off killing a guy in Simmons who's playing in his fifth career game and has been great so far by the way. Hold off on whatever the overreaction is to this one and the team’s slow start. The Sixers are, for the most part, extremely young, and roles are still being defined (see Dario Saric). The bottom line is, continuity is not there yet. These aren’t excuses, they are facts. And while the loss sucked, it’s good to be so invested again in the Sixers.