PHOENIX - Despite their 107-103 season-opening loss at Portland, the 76ers, who will visit Phoenix on Wednesday night, didn't play a bad game Monday: They played an awful quarter.
They fell behind, 10-2, at the start of the first quarter to a long and athletic Portland team and continued to play hideous basketball for the rest of the period.
When it was over, the Sixers trailed by 26-16. They had connected on just 6 of 19 shots (31.6 percent). And, the biggest sin by far, they committed four of their 20 turnovers. (Those 20 translated into 28 Portland points.)
It was the turnovers - more than the 19 rebounds the Blazers hauled down in the first quarter compared with just nine for the Sixers - that proved to be the difference for the rest of the game.
After that first quarter, the Sixers shook off the rust and played the Blazers evenly. Yes, the Blazers had some scoring runs at inopportune times - the 15-5 burst that enlivened the 160th consecutive Rose Garden sellout at the start of the fourth quarter resonates most prominently. But reserve guard Lou Williams, who scored the Sixers' final 10 points and finished with a team-high 25, had the Sixers in a one-possession game with just under 16 seconds remaining.
Coach Doug Collins has said over and over that the Sixers will win games because of the strength they have in numbers. They also will win games regularly only when they aren't coughing up the ball as if it were a contagion.
They may have the most unchanged roster in the league, the only difference being that they are wiser and more mature, as the team has repeatedly proclaimed since the lockout ended.
If that's the case, the one thing that they have to carry over from last season was their incredible propensity to value every single possession.
Last season this same group of guys - Collins played only his top eight rotation players against Portland - turned the ball over a league-low 13 times a game.
Know what happened when they played the way they did at Portland? Last season they turned the ball over 20 times or more just four times. Their record in those games: 1-3.
There was no bigger culprit on Monday than point guard Jrue Holiday, and the good thing is that he immediately owned up to it in the locker room after the game. Holiday, who fouled out, finished with 13 points, but his 3-1 ratio of turners to assists (6-2) was inexcusable, especially when you have set as your goals playing in all-star games and maybe even the Olympics.
Despite some of the superstar salaries wearing the red, white, and blue of the Sixers, Collins isn't coaching any superstars. And when this is your condition in the NBA, you can't contribute to your own destruction in the form of undisciplined play.
After the Portland game, most of the Sixers seemed to agree.