Try this quote:

"This is not how we wanted to start the season."

Any of the 76ers might have said that. But it was New Jersey forward Richard Jefferson to reporters after the Nets ended a five-game home losing streak with a 94-92 overtime victory over the Sixers on Saturday.

Or this quote:

"We know we have work to do. But it's not like we've played our best the first month, spent all our energy up and don't have anything left. We can still take it to another level if we buckle down and get it all together."

Again, that could have come from any Sixer. But it came from Atlanta guard Anthony Johnson in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution after a 6-9 start prompted a players-only meeting.

If nothing else, the Sixers can empathize. They've won just three of eight games at home and have dropped six of eight on the road. Every time one thing finally works, something else doesn't.

If you're marketing the Sixers, you have, as gently as we can say it, a tough job. But think how sweet this week could have been.

All your team had to do was hang on in the second half Saturday night in East Rutherford, N.J. That, coupled with Friday night's victory over the Washington Wizards, would have meant back-to-back victories for the first time this season going into an eminently winnable game tonight against Atlanta in the Wachovia Center. And that would have nicely set the stage for Wednesday night's visit by the rebuilt and daunting Boston Celtics.

But, no.

The Sixers allowed an 18-point lead early in the second half to disappear in what became a 94-92 overtime loss. After hitting 12 of their first 15 shots, they made just 19 of their last 59, including an 0-for-6 start in the 5-minute extra period.

That meant they wasted a 24-point performance from Andre Iguodala and a 16-rebound, five-block effort from Samuel Dalembert. Kyle Korver, their best shooter, struggled again from three-point distance, draining only one of six attempts; he is 2-for-16 on treys in the last three games, 19-for-61 overall.

The Sixers had no answers for the Nets, who responded to a fiery halftime message from coach Lawrence Frank. Jason Kidd matched his season-high with 19 points, Vince Carter came off the bench to score 24 points and Jefferson - starting in the frontcourt with former Villanova star Malik Allen and center Jason Collins, in the absence of the struggling Nenad Krstic - had 23 points.

Six shots

Andre Iguodala has led the Sixers in scoring in 10 of their 16 games. A plus: He has had seven performances of at least 20 points. A minus: He has had seven games of at least five turnovers . . . The Sixers have hit just 16 of 63 triples in the last four games . . . Reggie Evans has had at least 10 rebounds once in the last nine games after reaching at least 10 in five of the first seven . . . Assistant coach Aaron McKie's AM8 Foundation, partnering with Temple University and the 3rd Batallion 14th Marines, will collect new, unwrapped toys for Philadelphia children during Sunday night's Temple-Villanova game at the Liacouras Center. McKie said last season's effort generated nearly 700 toys. *