MEMPHIS - A normal NBA team would come away from an 0-6 road trip angry, depressed and frantically searching for answers. The 76ers are coming off theirs almost giddy.
Despite suffering an 18th consecutive loss to open the season in Sunday's 92-84 setback to the Memphis Grizzlies, the Sixers are quite happy with the trip that included owning leads in the fourth quarter in the final five games. Sunday, at the FedEx Forum, the Grizzlies used a 16-2 run late in the fourth quarter to seal consecutive loss No. 28 going back to last season for the Sixers, in a game that included 53 turnovers (27 by the Sixers).
"Absolutely," coach Brett Brown said when asked if he was satisfied with the road trip. He doesn't look lightly at the losing, but sees real progression with his team.
"I give them credit, they wound up their defense," he said. "We turned the ball over and had a hard time again getting into some things.
"It would be hard to justify (his satisfaction) through words. To have seen the effort and how close we are to playing with some really good players against some really good teams on the road and see that group diving on floors and helping each other off the court and being there. The game ends up a little too long. Most definitely, I leave very, very proud of our guys. We have made progress. It's not going to display itself on the win side of things, but the people that follow us would know that."
Two free throws by Isaiah Canaan (16 points) with 7 minutes, 37 seconds to play in the game gave the Sixers a 76-71 lead. Four minutes and 23 seconds later, Mike Conley hit a driving layup to give the Grizzlies an 86-77 lead, capping a 15-1 run. During that time, the Sixers went 0-for-5 from the floor and committed four turnovers. The fate, once again, was sealed, despite a solid effort for about 40 minutes.
"We turned it over a few times, missed some shots and they hit some big threes down the stretch," said Jahlil Okafor, who finished with nine points and 13 rebounds. "I think we made tons of progression (during the trip). We're competing with every team and we're going right down to the wire. That could easily be flipped to us coming out with the win."
If they can play more often like they did in the third quarter, that is quite possible. The Sixers scored a combined 48 points in the first, second and fourth quarters. They had 36 in the third on 14-for-22 shooting, including 7-for-10 from three.
But that dreaded fourth quarter awaited and the ending became all too familiar.
Robert Covington and Hollis Thompson each scored 12 for the Sixers, while Jerami Grant added 11. Covington also had eight turnovers, seven rebounds and seven steals, giving him 15 for the past two games.
Conley led the Grizzlies (10-8) with 20, while Zach Randolph added 17.
The next chance for a win comes Tuesday when the Lakers visit. Since Kobe Bryant announced Sunday that this will be his last season, this one will have a little more hoopla surrounding it.
Asked to talk about his recent and past troubles before the game, rookie center Jahlil Okafor politely declined and said he was just going to talk about basketball. He did issue the following statement on Twitter: "I hold myself to a higher standard than anyone else ever could and I'm not proud of some of my decisions over the last few months. I own my choices both personally and now publicly. At this point I am cooperating and respecting the process I have to go through. Going forward I don't want to be a distraction for my team and am grateful for the support and guidance those close to me are giving. I am 100 percent focused on my responsibility to the league, my teammates and fans."
In a poem sent to The Players' Tribune, Lakers great Kobe Bryant announced that this will be his last season of playing basketball. That means he will be making his final appearance in Philadelphia on Tuesday when Los Angeles visits the Sixers.
"It's an honor to sort of welcome him back to Philadelphia to begin with," said Brett Brown. "Kobe's legend has lived in that city for many years and will continue to live. For him to come back and play (right) after announcing his retirement, it's a privilege for all of us."