The Philadelphia 76ers would have — could have, should have — won their second game of the season on Wednesday night against the Houston Rockets ... and then they didn’t. Leading 104-96 with 3:05 left in the game, and 104-97 with 1:39 left in the game, the 76ers offense bogged down and went scoreless in that final 3:05. It was, as former SB Nationer Kyle Neubeck put it, an “inexcusable loss.”
One bucket would have likely sealed it. (One incorrect call going the other way likely would have, too.) Instead, the 76ers lost a game despite trailing for literally zero seconds — Eric Gordon’s game-winning three came as time expired — in the fourth quarter.
Here’s how it happened.
Ben Simmons dropped in a short two-pointer to extend the Philadelphia lead to eight points. The 76ers wouldn’t score again, although they obviously didn’t know it in that moment.
2:39 and 2:08
The 76ers force/are fortunate to get back-to-back James Harden missed threes. A seven-point lead with about three minutes to play is not insurmountable, but these two Harden misses made it much more likely that Philadelphia would pull this one out. One more bucket and they probably would have.
The Rockets, who hadn’t scored in a couple of possessions, finally got a single point when Eric Gordon split free throws. 104-97.
Harden is great at reading these plays.
.@HoustonRockets & @sixers coming down to the wire on #CrunchTime! pic.twitter.com/zURusjnDxQ— NBA TV (@NBATV) October 26, 2017
Philadelphia is making a classic young-team mistake, eating up the clock on a possession but failing to get a good look at the end of it. If you can eat clock and get good looks, then do that. But running the shot clock down to five and then hoping you can get a good shot anyway more often backfires than not.
For example, this make-able but extremely rushed J.J. Redick three:
0:30 — Was this goaltending?
Here’s the play some 76ers fans will harp on, and they appear to be right. This ended up being a three-point play for James Harden, but was the ball really on the way down? It certainly hadn’t touched the glass yet.
The incorrect goaltending led to the Rockets gaining an extra point. You might note that they won by one point.
The 76ers had yet another chance to put this game away ... and committed a shot clock violation due to late-initiating offense yet again.
James Harden’s good defense here is noted.
0:00 — Game winner
Eric Gordon GAME!— Basketball Society (@BBallSociety_) October 26, 2017
(via @clippittv) pic.twitter.com/E7CAEqzY1r
That’s how you lose leading by seven with 1:39 left in the game.