MILWAUKEE - This time, 76ers fans need to relax.

There's no need to talk about their team's possibly making a postseason run with a tweak or two. Nope. Not even in a weak Eastern Conference and a significantly weaker Atlantic Division.

Friday's victory over the Brooklyn Nets, on the surface, was impressive. But please don't make the same mistake you did when the Sixers (8-20) opened the season 3-0.

Back then, folks forgot that the franchise is starting its rebuilding process by sacrificing wins this season. There was a thought that this gritty team would somehow prove all the critics wrong despite having a roster loaded with inexperienced fringe players.

One has to admit that beating two-time defending NBA champion Miami, Washington, and Chicago made for a great story. It was one that ESPN, NBA-TV, and all of the local media outlets - including The Inquirer - ran with.

But things changed after they lost 19 of their next 23 games.

Suddenly, there were doubts about rookie coach Brett Brown, swingman Evan Turner, and center Spencer Hawes instead of a realization that it was merely reality setting in.

Never mind that the Sixers have rarely stopped opponents from shooting threes all season. We magnified this shortcoming when it become apparent during their recent seven-game losing streak.

Among more than a few fans, Brown went from an underrated, defensive-minded rookie head coach to a stubborn coach who doesn't know defense from the fence surrounding your grandmother's backyard.

Suddenly, Turner went from an all-star-caliber player to a wannabe. Suddenly, Hawes went from the prototypical stretch post player to a liability.

But in reality, Brown, Turner, and Hawes are still the same as they were at the start of the season. It's just that perceptions changed due to unrealistic expectations associated with the 3-0 start.

Brown is still a solid, defensive-minded coach. Turner is far from a wannabe, while Hawes isn't a liability.

It can be argued that Turner and Hawes would be complementary players for an NBA title contender. However, they are being asked to perform in starring roles for various reasons, one of which, undoubtedly, is to raise their trade value.

Asking Turner and Hawes to play like stars works against undermanned or struggling teams, but against top competition they will be exposed.

Sure they'll show glimpses, as Turner did Friday night in scoring 29 points in a 121-120 overtime victory against Brooklyn at the Wells Fargo Center. His game-winning basket at the buzzer will get talked about for weeks.

But we can't forget that the Nets were without two starters - shooting guard Joe Johnson and power forward Kevin Garnett - who could have made a huge difference.

Johnson, who missed the game for personal reasons, embarrassed the Sixers just four days earlier. He made eight three-pointers in the third quarter to tie the NBA record for threes in a period. On Friday, the Nets rested Garnett, a future Hall of Famer.

The Sixers have a knack for beating teams missing at least one starter. And this time, the Nets joined Miami (Dwyane Wade sidelined), Washington (Nene), Houston (James Harden), Milwaukee (Brandon Knight, Larry Sanders), and Orlando (Nik Vucevic, Jameer Nelson) as Sixers victims.

So don't get overly excited by these victories or start to have unrealistic expectations.

The Sixers will continue to lose a lot of games.