The Sixers remain the league's only winless team thanks in part to a boneheaded decision by coach Brett Brown, who earned a technical foul in the final minute of an 88-87 road loss to Houston after he kicked the basketball in frustration.
It's not every day that you see a coach directly contribute to a loss in such a head-slapping fashion.
With Philadelphia leading 87-84 and less than 40 seconds remaining in the game, Houston guard James Harden intercepted a pass near midcourt and took off for the races. As he drove to the basket, Harden appeared to lean into Sixers guard Michael Carter-Williams before attempting a layup.
The official, trailing the play, assessed a defensive foul on Carter-Williams rather than a charging foul on Harden, thereby giving Harden two free throws and a chance to cut Philadelphia's lead to one point with 35.5 seconds left.
During the play's aftermath, the ball bounced over to the Sixers bench, where it was sent bouncing back onto the court in Brown's direction. Frustrated at the call, Brown took two steps to the ball and punted it to the baseline, where it hit a courtside cameraman. Brown gestured as if to apologize for the action, but was immediately assessed a technical foul for the play and Harden was awarded a third foul shot.
"I deserved it," Brown said of the technical foul, according to Philly.com. "I lost some composure, and I wasn't sure about the foul. I was almost trying to kick it back to the ref."
Harden proceeded to make two of his three free throws, cutting Philadelphia's lead to 87-86. Carter-Williams then committed a turnover on the Sixers' ensuing offensive possession, giving the Rockets the ball back down one with 16.9 seconds remaining. Taking full advantage of this new opportunity, Harden raced coast to coast, weaving through Philadelphia's defense for a game-winning layup.
Although Philadelphia had one final chance with nine seconds remaining, Carter-Williams missed a potential game-winner and the Rockets escaped with the victory.
After the game, numerous fans joked on social media that Brown's kick ball and the Sixers' subsequent loss was simply more evidence of the organization's all-in approach to tanking, which has seen GM Sam Hinkie gut his roster of veterans and replacing them with young prospects and future draft picks. Carter-Williams penned a The PlayersTribune.com essay this week in which he made it clear that the Sixers players were attempting to win games. That proved to be unfortunate timing, as Philadelphia went on to lose to Dallas 123-70 on Thursday.
Harden finished with a game-high 35 points (on 10-for-24 shooting), seven assists and six rebounds in 41 minutes. Dwight Howard added 21 points (on 9-for-14 shooting), 16 rebounds and seven blocks in the win.
Tony Wroten led the Sixers with 19 points (on 7-for-16 shooting), eight assists and four rebounds. Carter-Williams added 13 points (on 4-for-12 shooting), five assists and five rebounds off the bench in a losing effort.
Houston improved to 8-1. Philadelphia dropped to 0-9.