Allen Iverson raised his No. 3 to the rafters and had Sixers' fans raising the roof.
For one night in Philadelphia, the spirit of a big game was back, from the four-figure ticket prices on the secondary market to the packed house that roared for legends Julius Erving and Moses Malone, and chanted "MVP!" when Iverson thanked the fans.
The crowd was electric -- then the Sixers pulled the plug.
By the fourth quarter, most of the 20,856 fans fled the Wells Fargo Center, the memories of Iverson's homecoming trumping the idea of sticking around to watch the home team limp toward another loss. The few that remained only cheered when the Sixers scored 100 points, netting them some free fast food.
Coach Brett Brown loved Saturday's atmosphere that was pulled straight from 2001.
"You think, `What can happen if we ever get this right?" he said.
The Sixers (15-45) have been every bit as bad as their preseason billing, and have lost 14 straight games following back-to-back defeats last weekend to Washington and Orlando. They've lost 12 straight at home and are freefalling their way toward catching Milwaukee for the worst record in the NBA. They had allowed 100-plus points in 13 straight games before Sunday, their longest single-season streak since 1989.
Iverson, one of the 76ers' all-time greats, has tuned out the Sixers as if they were a coach talking about practice.
"It's hard for me to watch Sixers basketball games," Iverson said, "so I don't."
Toss out rookie Michael Carter-Williams, injured rookie Nerlens Noel, and veteran Thaddeus Young and the Sixers are left with a roster more fitting for the D-League. Henry Sims? Jarvis Varnado? Byron Mullens?
Brown was blunt after the Sixers' 13th straight loss when asked if he wondered if the Sixers would win another game.
"All the time," he said, "I tell them that."
The Sixers are closing in on the longest single-season losing streak in team history, per STATS LLC.
- 20 straight; Jan. 9-Feb. 11, 1973.
- 15 straight; Feb. 9-March 11, 1994.
- 14 straight; Dec. 7, 1972-Jan. 6, 1973.
- 14 straight; Jan. 31-present.
Up next, Tuesday night at Western Conference-leading Oklahoma City.
Does anyone hear 15?
"I am concerned about the perception," NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said. "I am not concerned about what is happening in Philadelphia."
There's little cause for concern in Oklahoma City (45-15), which has bounced back from three straight losses to win its last two. That's due in part to star point guard Russell Westbrook easing the collective mind of Thunder fans, as he scored 26 points in a 116-99 victory over Charlotte on Sunday.
He was 10 of 12 from the floor in 25 minutes in his fifth game since returning from right knee surgery. Westbrook has steadily improved and is looking more like the player he was before he missed 27 games.
"The more I play, the more rhythm I'm able to catch and the more rhythm I'm able to get," he said.
Westbrook scored 17 points on 7-for-7 shooting in the first half.
He's averaged 27.4 points in his last five games against the 76ers, helping Oklahoma City to nine consecutive wins in the series. Kevin Durant had 32 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists in the first meeting this season, a 103-91 road victory Jan. 25 that came without Westbrook.
The Thunder's lineup is expected to be bolstered by Caron Butler, as the veteran forward is set to make his debut with the team after signing Saturday. He averaged 11.0 points in 34 games for Milwaukee this season.
"I just love what this whole organization represents and I thought it would be a good fit," Butler told the team's official website. "Wherever I can fit in, whether it's off the bench, a starter, in spots, whatever the case, I just want to be a part of this movement and have my fingerprints on this team's success."