As 76ers coach Doug Collins rode home from the team's Friday morning shootaround with one of his assistants, the two talked about the unfocussed nature of the shootaround. It was sloppy at times, and Collins hoped that it was not a precursor of the coming game.
Well, it was.
Playing a New Jersey Nets team that they had routed earlier in the week, the Sixers played sloppy and undisciplined basketball in the late stages of the fourth quarter to drop a crucial 95-89 decision in front of 19,169 fans at the Wells Fargo Center.
"This is a tough loss because it seemed like we turned the corner," Sixers forward Elton Brand said of the Sixers (31-28), who saw their two-game winning streak ended by a 22-38 team headed for the lottery. "Not because of the opponent's record. As you can see they have some talented players.
"But just our sense of urgency to get this game," Brand continued. "We had two eight-point leads, but we couldn't put the hammer down, and that's the disappointing part with the lack of efficiency and the sense of urgency in the moment with our destiny in our hands.
"The turnovers , not getting good shots at the basket, and our execution. We just can't have that."
If they do, they won't have to worry about it for long because that is the type of play that will either force a team to miss the playoffs or get chewed up in the first round.
The loss, coupled with New York's win over Washington, leaves both the Sixers and the Knicks with the same record. The Knicks, however, are the seventh seed by virtue of their 2-1 season advantage over the Sixers, losers of 11 of their last 18 home games.
With the Sixers trailing 87-85 late in the fourth quarter, Thaddeus Young (13 points, seven rebounds) committed the most costly of his four turnovers while driving to the basket for a potential game-tying basket.
But he lost control of the ball to New Jersey's Gerald Green (game-high 23 points). At the other end, Green nailed a three-pointer to give the Nets a 90-85 lead with.
After a pair of Lou Williams free throws, New Jersey's Marshon Brooks (22 points, six rebounds, four assists) put the game out of reach with two free throws that preceded a three-pointer with 43 seconds left to give the Nets a 95-87 lead.
Jrue Holiday led the Sixers with 19 points. Evan Turner added 18 points and seven rebounds. Kris Humphries (18 points, 13 boards) had an impressive game for New Jersey, which placed five players in double figures.
Young bemoaned his turnover in a tight game that featured 17 ties and 17 lead changes. However, like Brand, he thought that the Sixer beat themselves.
"I had a wide-open lane to the basket and I lost the ball," Young said. "We can't really have those types of mistakes in the course of the game."
So where does the blame for this loss rest?
"We have never put it on the coaches," Young said. "Those guys have gone to bat for us and have tried to help us in each and every way possible. That would be wrong of us to even throw something like that on the coaches. We are a team and we have to go out there and figure out how to win basketball games. The coaches cannot play for us."
The Sixers are off the next two days and then travel to Orlando for a game Monday.
That begins a stretch that sees them play six of their final regular-season games on the road.