It was time to clean the pallet, somehow remove the wretched taste that was left in the 76ers' mouths following Friday night's abysmal loss to the Memphis Grizzlies in which the Sixers blew a 21-point lead in the final 15 minutes of the game.

As many will say, the best thing about bad things happening in the NBA is that they quickly can be rectified. Since the Sixers' five-point loss to the Grizzlies, they've had a practice and a shootaround, and last night posted a 110-99 victory over the visiting Denver Nuggets.

That Memphis game? A thing of the past. Gone. Forgotten.


"I don't think anything happens coincidentally," said coach Doug Collins. "I think when something happens it's an opportunity to do two things: to try to grow or regress. And one of the things we've done in moments like this is we've grown.

"I think the players really felt the sting of that loss the other night, to the point that as a coach you really don't have to say anything. It's more, 'Let's keep moving forward.' There's a lot of people who have lost games like this. It has happened a lot in this league. We're not the only team to have ever done that. But, when you dig yourself a hole at 3-13 [to start the season] and you're trying to get out of it, every one of those wins becomes so precious."

And every one of the incomprehensible losses, agonizing.

"We just have to be more focused," said Jrue Holiday, who had seven assists last night. "We have a lot of young guys. Even if we're up by 20 and we think the game's over. I think we lost momentum. One point where a timeout happened, they came in with a zone. We just started to get lax, like the game was over. With 15 minutes left in the game, I think that's where we felt we had the game in the bag, and because they brought their subs in, I thought we got a little lax. We need to stay aggressive."

Mellow out on Melo talk

George Karl could only shake his head and answer the question: Why is it that his club has played so well since the New Jersey Nets backed off trying to get Nuggets superstar Carmelo Anthony?

"Our team has had a different attitude sometimes with an approach to it," said the Nuggets coach. "I think we laugh about it, joke about it and, generally, it didn't have a big effect on our basketball, which is, I think, a compliment to a lot of people, especially the players. We're in a good place, we've had a good season so far through a tremendous amount of drama and tremendous amount of energy sometimes that can take away from a team playing well, and we've had those moments. We've had those games that look like we were distracted, but, for the most part, I think we're in a very good place. I think the focus is on basketball for us, that's what I try to do. Pretty much, I think everyone's done that."

Before last night's loss, the Nuggets had won eight of 10, including five of six since the Nets withdrew their offer to land Anthony via a multiteam trade on Jan. 19.

Frat loses one

The Indiana Pacers fired former Sixers coach Jim O'Brien yesterday after a loss Saturday night in Chicago dropped them to 17-27.

"I hear people say, 'He's still getting paid,' but that doesn't take away the sting," said Doug Collins "We're all competitors and we do this because we love our jobs, we love to teach and we've all been in it a very long time. Any time anybody gets fired, you always feel that pain. It affects a lot of people - your wife, your family, your friends. Your life changes. I am always very sympathetic to coaches. I've been through it three times in my life and I understand what it feels like. In this business when you have great friendships and great relationships you understand that. There's a bond that coaches have. It's a lonely feeling."

Karl has little doubt that O'Brien, who was 43-39 in his only season with the Sixers in 2004-05, will be back in the game.

"Obie is one of the smartest guys around in basketball," Karl said. "There's no question that when teams struggle someone has to take the fall and the head coach is usually that guy. He's a basketball guy and he'll get back in the league and I wish him the best. It's just a tough part of our business."