The 76ers hit the skids at the wrong time.
Trying to win a series against LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat in the playoffs was already a burdensome task.
Trying to beat them while playing their worst basketball since early November could make even one victory seem like an upset.
The Detroit Pistons beat Philadelphia 104-100 on Wednesday night. The Sixers lost for the fifth time in the last six games. They finished 41-41 and failed to post their first winning record since 2004-05. The Sixers earned their 40th victory on April 1.
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The Sixers play the Heat in Game 1 on Saturday.
"I'm not going to let the end of this season put a damper on what we did this year,'' Sixers coach Doug Collins said.
The Sixers won 26 games at home -- one less than their overall total a year ago. But they finished 1-3 on the four-game homestand and Collins will spend the next two days trying to raise spirits on a beaten roster.
Jrue Holiday led the Sixers with 21 points, and Andres Nocioni and Evan Turner each scored 18.
This one had the feel of an ugly preseason game. Some stars sat, deep reserves played and even fan appreciation night prizes couldn't attract much of a crowd.
The Wells Fargo Center should be jammed when James and Wade come to Philadelphia for Games 3 and 4.
Don't buy those Game 6 tickets quite yet.
Philadelphia played without swingman Andre Iguodala (knee tendinitis) and guard Lou Williams (hamstring), who rested up for the playoffs.
The 76ers crashed over the final two weeks after a three-month run of success that lifted them into seventh place in the Eastern Conference, wiped out a 3-13 start, and made them one of the feel-good stories of the season.
Collins, in his first season, thrust his name onto the short list of coach of the year contenders.
He brought veterans such as Iguodala and Elton Brand with him to center court for a pregame speech that thanked the fans.
"I've never had more fun with a group of young men who, every single night, did everything they could to win basketball games,'' Collins said. "Hopefully in the playoffs, we're going to show you a little love.''
The Sixers have adopted "showyaluv'' as their team slogan. They've shown little proof they can beat the Heat in the first round.
"We can have a big 'up' on Saturday,'' Brand said. "We can really play well and go in and do what we have to do and we'll be feeling really good, really fast.''