The Nets, through no fault of their own, romped away with a 109-89 win. After hanging around for the first half and trailing by a single point, the Sixers lost all their defensive focus in the third quarter and, suddenly, there was nothing left to see but Brooklyn's tail- lights disappearing into the night.
"No energy at all," coach Doug Collins said of his team. "We were lethargic . . . just couldn't get it going."
Maybe some of that can be blamed on the hangover from their two-week binge on the road, but not all of it. A large part of the equation is that the Sixers just aren't a 48-minute team.
None of the realities that have staked them to a 15-21 record are really the fault of the players or the coach or the organization. This season's team was built to revolve around the dominating presence of a center who can't play yet.
What remains in the absence of Andrew Bynum is a team that struggles to play good defense, is forced to live on the perimeter on offense, and - here is the killer - often lacks the toughness to perform the game's dirty work.
There are nights when the other team shoots poorly, when the Sixers' own shots fall, and when the referees actually send them to the foul line, but that is not what usually happens. If one cog of the tenuous engine is missing, the game is going to be a struggle and it probably won't turn out well. It isn't really basketball. It's just the calculator.
Against the Nets, they shot well enough and forced turnovers, but their defense disappeared, their rebounding was awful, and they were badly outscored at the free-throw line.
Nobody knows the depressing math of the situation better than Collins, who picks it apart, studies it for openings, and sees it mocking him from the box score sheet. Only three teams in the NBA score fewer points per game than the Sixers. All it takes on a given night is a short lapse, just a few minutes of poor play, and that skimpy scoring won't be enough.
"When you average 93 points a game, it puts a lot of pressure on you every single night. The margin of error is very slim," Collins said. "We get less than 13 points a night at the foul line. I was counting on 18 or 19 this year. Add six more points and you're at 99, now it's a different game."
Collins was depending on Bynum to provide much of that difference, and also accounting for the toughness in the lane that is missing. There is no earthly reason an opponent would fear going to the basket against the current Sixers. On the other end, the Sixers don't have either the willingness to get fouled, or perhaps the reputations that would get them the borderline calls.
"It's not like we don't play in the paint, but when we see somebody in peril, we've got to make them foul us," Collins said. "We've got to make a commitment to try to get fouled."
That would be nice, but with this group, it is like trying to get a cat to commit to barking. Sometimes, in order to change a team's personality, you have to change the persons.
The Sixers did that in the offseason when they excised Andre Iguodala and Elton Brand as part of the plan to bring in Bynum and pay for the perimeter threats that would orbit him like satellites. It was a fine plan with Bynum in place, but without him the Sixers are missing their two most dedicated defenders from last season.
So, every night is a struggle and the team is in danger of falling out of playoff contention before Bynum ever graduates from bowling shoes to hightops. That is where the Sixers are headed unless something changes quickly.
The problem is that things don't change quickly in the NBA. Bad defenses usually stay bad. Streaky shooters usually remain streaky. And teams that don't have the willingness to earn foul shots will not be given them just because it would be a nice gesture from the officials.
That's a bad combination for the Sixers, but it is what they have and, on most nights, it will not add up to a win. The whole world isn't really against them, but the math definitely is.
Contact columnist Bob Ford at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @bobfordsports