His necktie loosened, 76ers coach Brett Brown took a deep breath Monday night and cracked a slight smile.
Brown's team had just hung with Portland, one of the league's best teams. The Sixers stayed competitive even though they didn't hit a single three-pointer and grabbed just seven offensive rebounds.
It was their 14th straight defeat. One more and the Sixers will tie the franchise's all-time mark for the longest losing streak to start a season. But Brown said he saw some light.
"We're not that far away. I genuinely believe that," Brown said Monday. "I think that this team is starting to see bits and hints of a team. Nobody is rolling over or pointing fingers. These guys are great."
The Sixers have not started 0-15 since 1972-73. That team finished with a league-record 73 losses.
Avoiding loss No. 15 will not be easy. Brown and the Sixers host the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday night. Brooklyn has lost six of the last seven, but should give the Sixers problems on the glass much like Portland did.
Leading rebounder Kevin Garnett was given a day off on Saturday, meaning the veteran will be well-rested for the Sixers. Although his minutes have been limited, Garnett still averages 8.3 rebounds per game. That is better than any Sixers player.
If the Sixers manage to contain Garnett, it is likely to create space for center Brook Lopez and forward Mirza Teletovic. The Sixers, the league's fourth-worst rebounding team, were outrebounded by 23 in the 114-104 loss to Portland.
The Sixers have allowed 105.9 points per game, the league's fourth-worst mark.
NumberFire.com, a sports analytics site, said the Sixers have a 10.6 percent chance to tie the league's all-time worst start of 18 straight losses by the Nets. The site said the Sixers will not be favored to win a game for the rest of the season.
Brown said he would go home after Monday's loss and sleep all right. It wasn't that bad, the coach said. Hopefully, he said, his team's first win is one day closer.