They couldn't, and the second half of the season started with a 110-102 loss and dropped the Sixers to 17-25.
Another dreadful first quarter led to another game of catch-up, and ultimately the team's second straight loss. Milwaukee began the game by making 12 of its first 21 shots to take a 28-18 lead after the first 12 minutes.
"It was the first quarter again, first quarter," an obviously agitated Doug Collins said. "We were down 10, shot 5-for-20 and so you play a game uphill again, let a team get 28 to start the game. It's a two-possession game in the fourth quarter and we turn it over three straight times. If you look at the numbers, we had more points off turnovers [24-22], we had 29 assists, we had one more field goal [42-41], we had one more three [8-7], basically even points in the paint [48-44 Bucks] and the fastbreak [14-12 Bucks] and we had more second chance [24-19]. Thirty-three free throws to 13 [attempted]. At some point in time, we better learn how to get to the free throw line.
"And it's unacceptable the way we're starting games. Unacceptable. We come out, and we coaches have worked so hard to prepare these guys and to come out and look up and see six points on the board, 5-for-20 shooting and the other team is up 10 to 12 [points]. Every night. Every night. I have no idea. You have to share the ball, you have to help each other out, you have to talk on defense. We're not good enough to do it by ourselves. You have to do it collectively."
The Bucks (22-18) flirted with a double-digit lead for most of the third quarter and part of the fourth before the Sixers made what has become their patented late-game run. They were able to cut the lead to 90-86 on a steal and slam by Thaddeus Young (11 points, nine rebounds) with 6 minutes, 46 seconds to go in the game, but the trio of Brandon Jennings, Ersan Ilyasova and Monta Ellis proved to be too much down the stretch.
And, for perhaps the first time all season, Jrue Holiday's legs couldn't carry him or his team. A night after battling against San Antonio's Tony Parker, Holiday seemed at least a step slower than the mercurial Jennings.
Holiday struggled through a nine-point, 12-assist, eight-turnover night, while Jennings totaled 25 points and seven assists. Ilyasova collected 27 points and 16 rebounds, and Ellis had 18 points and 10 assists.
Turner finished with 23 points, seven assists and six rebounds, while Spencer Hawes added 21 points and 12 rebounds off the bench and Nick Young scored 20.
With Jason Richardson back in Philadelphia with fluid on his left knee, Collins decided to start Royal Ivey in a spot normally taken by Dorell Wright. But it didn't really matter, because the start once again doomed the Sixers.
"I think early we had ample opportunities to run our offense and get good shots but we just weren't making shots, the ball just wasn't going through," Ivey said. "We were competing, and they hit a couple easy shots and got going, and they beat us in the first quarter, and the rest of the game was pretty fair. But that first 12 minutes has been hampering us a lot. It's a mental thing and we've got to get past that. We have to get out to good starts and bring some energy and jump on people. We're struggling in that department. Once we start to play together we're fine, but the first quarter has been killing us."
And when you're trying to overcome such a large, early deficit, the energy needed to just get back in the game can drain the tank when extra fuel is needed. It showed late in the game in the form of turnovers, defensive lapses and missed shots.
When asked about a possible starting lineup change, particularly removing an ineffective Lavoy Allen, Collins said: "I have to have something coming off my bench. Is it, like, rob Peter to pay Paul? Guys got to play. Lavoy comes out and shoots the ball the first three times he touches it tonight. How about moving the ball and screening somebody?"
On Twitter: @BobCooney76