But then the Nets and their horribly depleted roster managed just four points in the final 5 minutes, 31 seconds and blew four different chances to either claim a lead or force overtime in the final 61 seconds.
"It's starting to get frustrating and hurt because we're right there in the last three games until the end and we just can't get it done," said Trenton Hassell, who missed one of the shots late that could have altered the Nets' fortunes.
So the Nets - using just seven of eight available bodies again get to say woulda, coulda, shoulda - while fans say "will they ever?" - after the Sixers emerged with an 82-79 victory that extended the Nets' worst start in NBA franchise history to 0-8.
"What more can you say?" said Nets center Brook Lopez (a monster 23-point, 14-rebound effort), who figured prominently in the most controversial play, a spin and miss that drew contact but no call with 13.9 seconds left and the Nets down one. "We're right there at the end of the game and a couple of plays didn't go our way. We didn't close it out."
But it looked like they might. When Lopez scored at 5:32, the Nets had a 75-71 lead. But the Nets could not supply the knockout.
Fast forward to the very last sequence. The Nets had the ball with 4.8 seconds left, trailing 82-79 after the Sixers had two straight 1-of-2 free throw trips. They had one more chance to extend the game. But instead of overtime, they produced a turnover.
Rafer Alston (11 points, five assists), who had drawn a huge charge preceding the Lopez miss, went to inbounds. They needed a 3-pointer, either with Alston after inbounding or, surprisingly, to Lopez. But Alston saw Bobby Simmons curling left. He passed. To the right. Directly to the Sixers' Thaddeus Young (20 points).
"It was a bad inbound pass," Alston sight. "I saw Bobby curling tight, threw it to him. I was supposed to throw it to Trenton, run the play that was designed. And I threw it away. It was a bad read."
And so the frustration and hurt continued. And this time, with ample reason in the Nets' minds. After Lopez had given the Nets a 79-77 lead with two free throws at 1:26, Marreese Speights (19 points, nine rebounds) scored a three-point play. The Nets felt Lopez should have gotten the same benefit at :13.9.
"We got the ball to Brook down low. And he goes and obviously there's a lot of contact and it's a shame," coach Lawrence Frank said.
Lopez blamed himself.
"There's a possibility I didn't go up strong enough," he said.
Courtney Lee (groin) and Chris Douglas-Roberts (swine flu) are the hurting Nets who are closest to returning and might play tomorrow in Orlando. But Lee, who sat his second straight game, said he does not want to risk a relapse. "I'd rather be 100 percent and (know) for sure nothing is wrong."