To stay relevant in this conversation, they will have to shake off a loss in which they scored just seven points in the fourth quarter - the fewest points the team has ever scored in the fourth quarter since the shot clock was introduced in 1954 - and prepare for an Orlando team that has won six of their last seven meetings in Philadelphia.
"We're not going to be able to go to a spa or anything to get restoration," coach Doug Collins said shortly after the Sixers lost their second game in a row and eighth in their last 12. "We've got to play Orlando on Saturday, then we've got to go play at Boston, then go play at New Jersey."
The Sixers' offensive troubles are well known, but their defense has become particularly problematic. In their last four losses, opponents have averaged 97 points against a defense that has allowed a league-low 88.2 points. In those games, San Antonio, Washington, Miami, and Toronto made 49 percent of their shots; the Sixers had been holding opponents to just 42.2 percent shooting. They have lost those games by an average of more than 16 points while averaging just 80.75 points.
"What used to be good for us was our defense," Collins said. "We have not been able to stop people, for whatever reason. I don't know if it's mental fatigue, physical fatigue. I'm sitting here trying to find the answers, too."
Contact staff writer John N. Mitchell at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JmitchellInquirer