An NBA game is like an NBA season - only the end matters.
All the good effort in the world, if paired with a string of last-minute misses, really means as much as a first-minute collapse.
And the 76ers know this better than most teams.
For two years the Sixers have been the team that, when taking the ball out on the sideline for the final crucial possession, had their fans watching with a sense of foreboding.
How will it end this time? With what off-balance miss will this loss be sealed?
By their own admission, the Sixers have no player capable of scoring 25 points a night. Yet when the game is on the line, they almost always act as if they do.
They give the ball to Andre Iguodala, and tell him to go to work. Iguodala has been designated the main man and so it will go, despite the fact that, at times, it's clearly not the right decision.
One can't help but wonder what other factors play into this decision: Iguodala's $80 million contract, his designation as the franchise player, pressure to prove he is what the team says he is?
When Iguodala has the ball, defenses stuff themselves into the paint. More times than not, he's forced into a low-percentage shot because he can't get to the hoop. When he does get to the hoop, the big men stuffing that paint either swallow him up, or he avoids the contact and surrenders to a topsy-turvy, spin-heavy attempt at the rim.
Through all of this, through different coaches, through dozens of attempts - and also, certainly, a handful of made clutch shots by Iguodala - the Sixers only rarely stray from this end-of-game philosophy.
At the end of Wednesday's loss to the Boston Celtics, Iguodala received the ball on what would be the team's final offensive possession, despite going into the play shooting only 2 for 10 for the game. It didn't matter that Lou Williams was 5 for 8, or that Jrue Holiday was 6 for 13.
The Sixers have decided: whenever they can, give the ball to Iguodala. He doesn't fear the moment, he'll always take the shot, and there's so much invested in his success.
It all defies logic.
And it costs the Sixers games, momentum, and confidence.
Let's use a little standard basketball logic. At the TD Garden in Boston, Sixers coach Doug Collins said something he's said over and over this season: He doesn't have one player that can be a dominant scorer on a nightly basis. When they're at their offensive best, the Sixers will get six or seven players into double figures.
What Collins is saying is that no player on his team, realistically, is talented enough, offensively, to count on his skills for 48 minutes a game, 82 games a year.
That, right there, is the truth.
Yet, when there are only a few seconds left on the clock, the truth is scrapped in favor of popping in the tape of a rerun that Sixers fans have seen on a loop for years.
Why doesn't the truth about the Sixers' roster extend to the final possession? There is no one savior, and there shouldn't be when the clock is ticking down. Scoring by committee and riding the hot hand are paramount to patching together an offensive attack. If no player is capable of scoring 25 points a night, then clearly no player has superior scoring ability. That reality should not be forgotten just because a time-out is called, and the game is on the line.
If the Sixers don't consider spreading the ball around at the end of games, they'll continue losing those close games.
And it will likely mean the difference between a playoff spot and an early vacation.