So after just one win, it was back to normal for the 76ers on Friday night.
A 103-91 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder put the Sixers back in familiar territory after Wednesday's win over the Minnesota Timberwolves. That win snapped their franchise record-setting season-opening losing streak at 17.
To their credit, the overmatched Sixers were scrappy. They battled back from a 20-point, third-quarter deficit and pulled within seven points (93-86) on Luc Mbah a Moute's layup with 3 minutes, 12 seconds left. But the Thunder responded with an 8-0 run to take a 101-86 lead with 1:37 remaining to put the game away.
"There was a physical side of the group, the young guys, that I was proud," said Sixers coach Brett Brown, whose squad dropped to 1-18. "There was no back down."
The key moment came at the start of the third quarter. The Thunder (6-13) opened the second half with a 13-3 run to build a 70-50 cushion with 8:18 left in the quarter.
"The starts of third periods in the NBA drive me crazy," Brown said, bemoaning a lack of intensity. ". . . That's something that we just can't afford to do.
"But after that, there was a lot of fight in that young group."
The day began gloomily with word that reserve point guard Alexey Shved would be sidelined for the second consecutive game with a left hip-flexor strain. With Tony Wroten (sprained right knee) already sidelined, that left starter Michael Carter-Williams as the team's lone true point guard.
In need of an additional point, the Sixers called up Malcolm Lee from the Delaware 87ers, their NBA Development League team. To make room, they waived power forward Drew Gordon.
Lee did not see action as the youthful Sixers had the misfortune of having to face a Thunder team that was finally healthy. Friday marked Kevin Durant's second game back after missing the first 17 with a right foot fracture. Meanwhile, this was point guard Russell Westbrook's third game back after being sidelined for 14 games with a right second metacarpal fracture.
Westbrook led all scorers with 27 points to go with seven assists, five rebounds, and two steals. The NBA all-star wasn't perfect, finishing with six turnovers.
Durant, the reigning MVP, struggled a bit, finishing with 10 points on 3-for-11 shooting. One of his shot attempts was blocked by Nerlens Noel. But he still managed to score in double figures for his 407th consecutive game. Power forward Serge Ibaka took up the slack with 19 points and a game-high three blocks.
Carter-Williams, who verbally sparred with Westbrook throughout the game, paced the Sixers with his second double-double in three games. He had 16 points and 14 assists to go with seven rebounds and three steals. He appeared to injure his hip in the fourth quarter. Brown said Carter-Williams just fell on the hip, and will be fine.
But . . .
"I didn't get hit in the hip," Carter-Williams said. "I got hit somewhere close to my hip. But I'm good now."
Reserve guard Robert Covington made 3 of 6 three-pointers to lead the Sixers with 21 points. Noel added 11 points, 10 rebounds, two steals, and the block on Durant.
But the news of the day was finding a point guard to help spell Carter-Williams. The Sixers were forced to turn to rookie JaKarr Sampson, who played power forward at St. John's, as the backup point guard Friday.
"You start playing out what are your worst nightmares, if Michael gets injured, if Michael gets in foul trouble," Brown said of the roster move.
"There are great coaches in the league. Are [the Thunder] going to post him up with Westbrook? Are they going to double-team him? Whatever it is, we felt like we needed to do something now."
The Sixers had an official first-day-of-issue dedication ceremony for the Wilt Chamberlain Forever stamps.
The former Sixers great is the first NBA player to have a commemorative stamp.
"It's a great guy to choose," Durant said. "Wilt, he's a guy that set the standard for basketball players. He dominated."