The 76ers avoided sole possession of a dubious place in the NBA record book on a night when they honored Kobe Bryant and the late Moses Malone.
They snapped two losing streaks with their first victory of the season in a 103-91 defeat of Bryant’s Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center.
The Sixers (1-18) entered the night one loss away from breaking the NBA record for consecutive losses to start the season. They tied the mark of 18 consecutive setbacks that was set by the 2009-10 New Jersey Nets.
They also halted their U.S. professional sports record of 28 straight losses, dating back to March 27. Meanwhile, the Lakers dropped to 2-15, suffering their seventh consecutive setback.
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“Finally!” Nerlens Noel said. “We’ve been a tough group. It feels great to get it. … We’ve had multiple leads coming into the fourth quarter. It’s about time we executed down the stretch, and finally pulled it out.”
The Sixers finally held on to a fourth-quarter lead for the first time in six games.
But this was a night when a sold-out crowd of 20,510 fans — 60 percent wearing Lakers attire — came to witness Bryant’s final game in Philadelphia. He finished with 20 points.
The former Lower Merion High School standout, who is in 20th NBA season, announced his retirement on Sunday. Bryant, 37, became the first guard to go straight to the NBA out of high school when the Charlotte Hornets drafted him with the 13th overall pick on June 26, 1996. He was traded to the Lakers weeks later for Vlade Divac.
Also, the Sixers honored Malone throughout the game with special tributes. The three-time NBA MVP, who helped lead the franchise to the 1983 NBA title, died at age 60 on Sept. 13 from cardiovascular disease. Former Sixers Julius Erving and Clint Richardson reminisced about their former teammate during a halftime ceremony. At the conclusion, Moses Malone Jr. announced that Sixers will retire his father’s No. 2 jersey next year.
But his tribute was overshadowed by Bryant’s presence.
The crowd chanted, “Kobe! Kobe! Kobe!” as he was introduced during pregame introductions.
His high school coach, Gregg Downer, and Erving presented him with his framed Lower Merion jersey before the game. There was also a pregame video tribute.
He opened the game with a three-pointer. And after Isaiah Canaan hit one for the Sixers, Bryant responded with two more to give the Lakers an early 9-6 advantage to chants of “MVP.”
“They got me,” Bryant said of the crowd. “I wasn’t expecting that kind of reaction. It was emotional and deeply appreciated beyond belief and really, really special.”
However, the 6-foot-6, 212-pounder’s shooting hindered the Lakers more than it helped them. After making three of his first four shots, the 2008 MVP went 4 of 22 the rest of the game. He ended up making 7 of 26 shots, including 4 of 17 on three-pointers. Thirteen of his points came in the first quarter.
His poor shooting turned out to be contagious, as the Lakers shot 37.1 percent as a team. That led to the Sixers taking a 94-80 lead on Jahlil Okafor’s layup with 7 minutes, 20 seconds left.
Los Angeles pulled within eight (96-88) with 4:05 remaining. But that was as close as the Lakers got.
“We finally got the monkey off our backs,” Isaiah Canaan said. “So we are trying to keep this winning streak rolling.”
Robert Covington led the Sixers with 23 points. Jerami Grant added 14 points, seven rebounds, four blocked shots and four assists. Noel had 14 points on 5-for-7 shooting to go with nine rebounds in 26:19 off the bench. The power forward had missed the previous two games with right knee tendinitis.
The game nearly turned into a boxing match.
Lakers center Roy Hibbert (six points, 10 rebounds) got into a scuffle with several Sixers with 6:54 left in the third quarter. Hibbert, Grant and Sixers teammate JaKarr Sampson received technical fouls on the play.