The real problem with circling games on the calendar for a team desperately trying to find a win is that the other guy is always circling the same game. If the Boston Celtics looked like a team that might be beatable as the 76ers prepared for Wednesday night's game, imagine what the Sixers looked like to them.
Boston had lost three in a row before getting to the Wells Fargo Center, which isn't very good, but it can't compare to being 0-for-the-season and trying to change that with a roster that was constructed with that very goal in mind.
"We're still together and we've got each other's back, no matter what the record is," Nerlens Noel said after the Celtics dropped the Sixers to 0-11.
That's great, but it would be even better if they got back in transition.
Coach Brett Brown likes to talk about the need to see small improvements in the team, to "see daylight," as he likes to put it. There wasn't much to take from this game, however, and the question of when the Sixers will get that elusive first win grows bigger with every loss.
Boston was definitely an opportunity; a good offensive team, but often very indifferent at the defensive end of the floor. If the Sixers could just muster enough defense of their own, force enough turnovers to get some early offense and get things rolling, the Celtics might settle for jump shots and accept the outcome.
Instead, the Sixers committed more turnovers than they forced, allowed Boston to shoot just a tick under 50 percent from the field, and chose some dreadful shots for themselves. Midway through the third quarter, with the teams still separated by only a couple of baskets, they went dead on offense, stood around waiting for something - a reprieve from the governor? - and never regained any momentum.
"It will happen. I think the guys have worked and deserve it," Brown said. "They just aren't getting rewarded in the win column."
If not this game, when? Saturday in New York represents another opportunity against another struggling team, but it probably looks pretty good to the Knicks as well. The longer the losing streak gets, the harder it will be to break. Teams that ordinarily would not feel the need to play hard against the Sixers will make sure they aren't the ones to suffer the ignominy of yielding them their first win.
The team's record for losses to begin a season is 15, and the league record is 18, but those don't seem like barriers that will hold the Sixers unless they can find a way to score more consistently. They are ranked among the bottom three in a number of the most vital offensive statistics, and it isn't because their guys are playing below their potential. This is how bad they are.
One of the scarier things Brown said Wednesday was that, according to the team's analytics department, the Sixers are second in the league in shot efficiency. Not in shooting - far from it - but in getting the best shot possible from a given situation.
The temptation is to decide that the analytics department might benefit from closing the computer and getting some fresh air now and then. First of all, assuming one can actually measure shot efficiency, which means somehow factoring in what one more pass might have yielded or what one fewer pass might have done to the opposing defense, arriving at any calculation that places the Sixers among the league's offensive elite is cause for recalculation.
There's no point in debating the math, because in the world of deep basketball analytics - and the Sixers are center-of-the-earth deep - the math says NBA teams should either take three-pointers or get to the rim and nothing else. So, at least they are taking efficient shots, even if they are the worst shooting team in the league, which they are. Imagine how bad things would be if they were taking inefficient shots.
"Michael and Tony are challenged shooters right now," Brown said diplomatically, when asked about the possibility of playing guards Michael Carter-Williams and Tony Wroten together for long stretches. "It's not like you're rolling out two 40 percent three-point shooters, so that's not an advantage."
Unfortunately, from an energy and speed standpoint, which the Sixers need in order to create the early offense to get to the rim - efficiency! - those are the two guys who can best get that done. But Brown can't use the combination very much because opposing teams, once in the half-court defense, wouldn't bother to guard either of them on the perimeter. This would allow the other team to play five-on-three, which is a very efficient way to play defense.
"If I shrunk my world down to something basic, I hope that my team plays hard and they pass the ball," Brown said. "It's almost that simple. We want to fight and we want to share. That's the message from day one."
Mostly, the Sixers do both those things, but playing hard doesn't mean playing well, and passing the ball isn't as nifty when the guy who catches it can't shoot, either. These are problems to be solved down the road after the haul of ill-gotten draft picks is finally complete. The problem at hand is the small matter of winning just one basketball game.
This wasn't the one. Maybe next time. Maybe not.