BOSTON — The Philadelphia 76ers found a way to tie the longest losing streak in major U.S. professional sports history.
Blowing a late five-point lead in an 84-80 loss to the Boston Celtics on Wednesday night, the 76ers tumbled to their 26th straight loss and 16th in a row to start the season.
Philadelphia tied the major U.S. professional sports futility mark set by the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 1976-77 and matched by the 76ers in 2013-14. They are two losses away from tying the then-New Jersey Nets' NBA-worst mark of 18 losses to open a season.
"How many streaks have I been a part of?" 76ers third-year coach Brett Brown said. "I'm numb to it."
"It is hard," Philadelphia forward Nerlens Noel said. "You're so close to getting that first W. There's couple of plays that you've got to sleep on."
Jahill Okafor led the 76ers with 19 points and nine rebounds. Hollis Thompson scored 15 points.
Boston coach Brad Stevens said his team was feeling pressure, too.
"We were tight and we missed a lot of shots, and they were dominating us in the paint as far as blocking shots and at the rim and everything else," he said.
The 76ers opened an 11-point lead early in the final quarter and held that same advantage after Thompson's basket in the lane with just over 6 minutes to play. Boston then scored the next nine points, closing it to 77-75 on Jared Sullinger's jumper from the left corner with 3:13 left.
After Okafor's 3-point play gave the 76ers an 80-75 lead with just under 3 minutes left, the Celtics scored the next seven points. Crowder's 3 from the top of the key capped the spree with 38.5 seconds to play.
The Celtics knew how frustrating it would have been to lose.
"You guys know how much of a disappointment it would have been," Crowder said. "Very, very, very disappointing to all of us, coaches and players."
Phil Pressey back-rimmed a jumper in the lane and Thomas grabbed the rebound with 2.1 seconds left. He was fouled and hit both free throws to seal it.
"It hurts," Pressey said. "This one hurts because we've been doing it over and over again. I feel like we're going to get it done. If it keeps happening, we've got to keep watching film and try to correct it."
Thomas' driving basket closed it to 80-79 with 1:10 left.
There were many stretches in the third quarter where the fans were eerily quiet — probably because they were surprised that the Celtics were trailing against a winless team.
They went from quiet to a spattering of boos after Thompson's 3-pointer from the left wing made it 68-59 with 9:40 to play in the game.
The 76ers opened the second quarter with a 10-0 run over the first 5 minutes, turning a 26-26 deficit into an eight-point edge. Covington had seven points in the spree.
76ers: F Nik Stauskas was out with a bruised left knee. ... They blocked seven shots in the first quarter. ... Brown agreed that the losing is very wearing. "It affects me. There's no doubt about it," he said before the game. "I just try every day to hold that locker room together."
Celtics: G Marcus Smart missed his third straight with a lower left leg injury. ... Stevens was still irked about a 24-point loss in Atlanta on Tuesday night. "I didn't even mention last night's game. I told them what we need to do on a consistent level and said, 'That's all I have to say,'" he said. "I just think we need to defend with greater urgency."
ANYONE KNOW A JOKE?
Brown said he tried to lighten the moment when he called a timeout as the Celtics were charging back.
"We tried to make light of it in the timeout when they were coming back, trying to loosen up the mood," he said.
The 76ers blocked 14 shots and held Boston to 34.1 percent from the floor.
"It's a shame," Brown said. "Our defense is giving us a chance."
76ers: At Houston on Friday night.
Celtics: Host Washington on Friday night.