By Joseph Santoliquito

PHILADELPHIA, PA (CBS) — The Sixers kept climbing the list of ignominy Monday night at the Wells Fargo Center, but this exercise in futility came a little easier, or harder, depending on your perspective on where you think the 76ers are going.

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The Sixers led once, 13-12, on a Michael Carter-Williams driving layup with 4:54 left in the first quarter. And that was it against the defending NBA champion San Antonio Spurs, without stars Tony Parker and Tim Duncan, who outlasted the Sixers, 109-103, for their 17th-straight loss.

The Sixers are now one loss shy of tying the all-time losing streak to begin a season, which is still owned by the 2009-10 New Jersey Nets, which began 0-18

The 0-17 start by the 76ers ties the 1988-89 Miami Heat, which started 0-17 and the 1999 Los Angeles Clippers, which also started 0-17 in the labor-dispute shortened 1999 season.

The Sixers did battle the Spurs, fighting back from a 57-33 deficit after the Spurs’ Cory Joseph made a driving layup with 2:36 left in the first half. But the Sixers pulled within 101-96 on a Henry Sims layup with 1:32 remaining in regulation.

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But as happened over, and over, and over again this season, a Sixers’ break was lost with a turnover or missed shot.

Carter-Williams tied a season high with 24 points, Alexey Shved added 19. Nerlens Noel did not play, out with a hip flexor injury. Short-handed San Antonio was led by NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard’s game-high 26, which tied a season high for him. The Spurs’ Matt Bonner stung the Sixers with 12 points on 5-for-5 shooting.

It marked the eighth-straight win for the Spurs, whose coach Gregg Popovich gave Sixers’ coach Brett Brown, a former Popovich assistant, a consoling hug afterward. A number of Spurs came over to offer encouraging words for Brown before the teams retreated to their locker rooms.

“I thought that we started the game in the first half was not played with much energy,” Brown admitted. “I’ve seen it with our guys, we play the Spurs, we’re sort of star struck for a second and we had no juice, we had no energy. We were lucky in the last 40 seconds. It was going up to 22, 23 to bring it back to 15. That got us going a little bit where we could not feel as deflated as we had a right to feel like after a sort of lack-of-energized first half.”

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