Heading into Thursday night's game against the Brooklyn Nets, the Philadelphia 76ers were viewed as arguably the NBA's hottest team. With a league's best record of 7-1, coming off a tight win against the Washington Wizards at home, Philly was looking to take one of their most difficult challenges yet in Brooklyn.
But as the game inched closer to tip-off, the matchup became considerably less difficult for the 76ers. Or so, that's what everybody thought. Leading up to Thursday's game, the Sixers knew that the Nets wouldn't have Kevin Durant available to play for days.
Then, a couple of hours before tip-off, Brooklyn's star guard Kyrie Irving also ruled himself out for unknown personal reasons. Although Philly was also shorthanded as they were set to play without Furkan Korkmaz, Mike Scott, and Seth Curry, the matchup was still in the Sixers' favor as they had their stars available.
On the opening possession, it was clear that Thursday's game was just going to be one of those nights for the 76ers, which reminded fans of the dark days of last season when they came out sloppy on the road against teams they should beat with ease.
Whether the Sixers took a Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving-less Nets team serious or not is up for debate -- but 76ers head coach Doc Rivers doesn't want to hear it. Following Philly's 122-109 loss in Brooklyn, Rivers was as blunt as can be regarding his team's play on Thursday night.
"We didn't come to play, is what I saw," Rivers said after the matchup. "We played last night, I guess. . . You know, [tonight was] disappointing. You got three of their top-five players out. We had a couple of guys out, too, obviously, but that's an extremely winnable game. That's what [the Sixers] were in the past when you show up on the road, you don't have focus, and you're not ready to play basketball, and you deserve to lose the game. And that's what I told them. I said, 'We deserve to lose.'"
The good news is it's still very early on in the season. With 63 games left on the schedule, Philly is bound to lose games no matter how winnable they are. While it's always disappointing to lose to a shorthanded team, it's better for the 76ers to get the ugly mistakes out of the way now, so they can clean them up before the postseason when the wins and losses matter the most.
Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him on Twitter: @JGrasso_