For the second consecutive game, the 76ers played without leading scorer Elton Brand.

For the second consecutive game, the Sixers faced a solid opponent. Last night, it was the New Jersey Nets.

Although they rallied to win that first Brand-less game - beating the Detroit Pistons on Friday night - the Sixers couldn't find the same fourth-quarter burst, wilting down the stretch in a 95-84 loss at the Wachovia Center.

"If you want to be good in this league, you've got to play [back-to-back] games," coach Maurice Cheeks said. "And you've got to win them."

The loss left the Sixers at 9-12, while the surprising Nets - predicted to finish at the bottom of the Atlantic Division - improved to 11-8.

Before the game, Sixers officials said Brand, the starting power forward for the first 19 games, again would be sidelined. It is unclear when Brand will return. He is listed as day-to-day.

Although the Sixers don't play again until Wednesday at home against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Cheeks said getting Brand to the four-day layoff didn't factor into the decision.

"If Elton could play, he would be out there," Cheeks said before the game. "It didn't make sense to push him out there. This is something that can linger."

"They're being cautious because of my past injuries," said Brand, who missed all but eight games last season with a ruptured Achilles tendon.

Brand said he hopes to be back for the Cavaliers game.

He said the injury has been an "ongoing thing" that worsened during Wednesday night's loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.

For the Sixers this season, poor shooting, like a lingering cold, has slowed their production. Last night, they finished shooting 36.4 percent, but made only 14 of 39 shots (35.9 percent) at the half.

As if deliberately contrasting the Sixers' offensive woes, the Nets' first-half shooting resembled that of an efficient post player: 58.8 percent. They finished the game at 49.3 percent, going 11 for 26 from the three-point line.

"They did such a good job of spreading the floor," said Sixers swingman Andre Iguodala, who scored a team-high 20 points. "They hit a big shot every time."

Added Iguodala: "We go on runs, then they come back with runs, but we can't let their runs get out of hand."

Even with the wide shooting gap, the Nets couldn't stretch their lead past a handful of possessions until the final 1 minute, 41 seconds, when their leading scorer, Devin Harris (27 points), made two free throws to make it a 91-81 game.

When Harris splashed the second, the Wachovia Center aisles filled with fans conceding the game.

Free throws. Sixers guard Royal Ivey suffered a right corneal abrasion in the first half. Ivey returned to the game in the fourth quarter. . . . Sixers center Samuel Dalembert was 0 for 6 with zero points. . . . Sixers forward Donyell Marshall scored 13 points off the bench one night after scoring eight in the fourth quarter of Friday night's come-from-behind win over the Pistons. . . . Cheeks used all 12 eligible players in the first half. . . . The announced attendance was 13,096.

Contact staff writer Kate Fagan at 856-779-3844 or kfagan@phillynews.com.