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Sixers give it away in fourth quarter

PORTLAND - The 76ers and the just-acquired Gordan Giricek suddenly have this much in common: They both very much need a fresh start.

PORTLAND - The 76ers and the just-acquired Gordan Giricek suddenly have this much in common:

They both very much need a fresh start.

The Sixers' promising start yesterday deteriorated into a 97-72 loss to the streaking Portland Trail Blazers, the equivalent of watching the implosion of a major structure. You could see the walls crumbling. You could see the dust and debris flying in every direction.

It was a collapse of significant proportions, even if Sixers coach Maurice Cheeks said it wasn't.

"I'm not going to say it collapsed," Cheeks said after the Sixers lost for the fourth time in 12 games and the Blazers won for the 13th time in succession, the second-longest streak in franchise history. "I'm saying the fourth quarter was obviously the difference. Their defense was good. Our offense was not good.

"I'm not going to attribute it to 'We collapsed,' or that we lost our composure. If we did, I would say that. I'm not in agreement with that."

Frame it any way you wish, here is what the numbers say:

The Sixers led 45-36 at halftime, and 47-36 with 11:04 left in the third quarter. The Blazers finished the period with a 16-8 surge, then ran off the first 17 points of the fourth. The Sixers, after shooting a respectable 20-for-41 in the first half, regressed to 10-for-37 in the final two periods, including 4-for-19 and four technical fouls in the fourth. At one point in the fourth, they were 1-for-10 with six turnovers.

The numbers also say this: The Sixers got overwhelmed, 35-9, in the last quarter, matching an all-time low for scoring by a Blazers opponent in a fourth quarter. The Sixers' 27 points after intermission represented a season low by a Blazers opponent.

"It just turned around real fast," the Sixers' Andre Miller said. "It happens. We tried, but there was a lot of energy in the [Rose Garden]; they got caught up in the emotions. Sometimes it happens like that."

The Blazers' bench outscored the Sixers' reserves, 49-15. Not that it was really a factor, but the Sixers had just six backups in uniform rather than the usual seven. That was because, anticipating the availability of Giricek - obtained Saturday morning from the Utah Jazz in a deal for Kyle Korver - the new wing player was placed on the active roster. But he didn't complete his mandatory physical examination until about 30 minutes before tipoff; NBA rules stipulate that the active/inactive roster must be submitted within 60 minutes of the start.

Giricek instead will be in uniform for the first time tonight in Seattle. Korver will be available for the Jazz tonight against the Blazers in Salt Lake City. The Sixers play in Salt Lake City on Wednesday night.

"I think it's going to be a fresh start," Giricek said. "I think it's going to be a great place for me."

His 3 1/2 seasons with the Jazz ended in a disagreement with coach Jerry Sloan, but he said, "I think it's not worth any more [discussion] about those things. I think it has to be water under the bridge . . . I think we have to start from here. I'm playing for Philadelphia right now. I love being here."

He arrived about noon, and said, "I've been here probably only 2 hours, but I feel comfortable."

He said he had asked to be traded.

"The only thing I always asked was to be respected as a man, not even as a basketball player, just as a man," he said. "I didn't feel that, so basically it was time to move on.

"It doesn't mean I asked for a trade just because it was the last year on my contract, because I think the future is going to be bright wherever I'm going to play. There are 30 teams in the NBA, teams in Europe even, so my options are going to be open . . . In this moment, I just want to be here, to be treated as a man. I really don't worry about next year. I really don't."

As Giricek completed a pregame meeting with reporters, he was asked whether he had any advice for Korver as he joins the Jazz.

"On the funny side," he said, smiling, "[I'd say] run all the plays. Don't cut the plays [short]. I did." *