BOSTON The Celtics are still looking for that first win of the season over a team other than the Washington Wizards following Friday's 106-100 loss to Philadelphia.
Like Boston, the Sixers (3-2) are a team still in search of their identity having not played a single game with their franchise center, Andrew Bynum (knee).
The Celtics (2-3) have all their core pieces intact, but the continuity with them and the new guys is still a work in progress.
However, the chemistry between Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett is strong as ever, evident by a lob dunk from Rondo to Garnett early in the fourth that cut the Sixers lead to 83-76.
The Celtics would eventually get even closer following a three-pointer by Jason Terry that made it an 83-79 game.
Boston's bench was up on its feet, and so was the Celtics fan base soon after that. Giving them even more reason to cheer was the offensive foul call against Nick Young.
But every big play by Boston was matched by an even bigger play by Philadelphia, which kept the Celtics in a ditch that proved to be too steep to climb out of.
It was another game in which the Celtics showed some signs of progress as they try to play their way through what is clearly a period of growing pains.
That said, losing should not be such a prominent part of what fans are witnessing while the C's try to continue to acclimate themselves with one another.
While the new guys have taken much of the heat for the team's struggles, arguably the biggest problem for the C's on Friday - at least in the first half - was the play of Rajon Rondo defensively.
His inability to keep Jrue Holiday in front of him had the Celtics defense looking like a freeway in the middle of the night with all lanes open to whatever destination Holiday wanted to get to.
Most of the time, he was trying to get to the basket and either score or find a teammate, evident by a first half in which he had 10 points and eight assists in helping Philadelphia surge ahead to a 57-45 halftime lead.
The Celtics were a much more competitive team in the third quarter, courtesy of some much-improved play defensively.
Especially Rondo, who clearly took the challenge of defending Holiday a lot more serious.
Rondo's driving lay-up early in the third cut the Sixers lead to 63-54 which prompted Sixers coach Doug Collins to call a time-out with 8:06 remaining.
But in plugging up the holes created by Holliday, Philadelphia found another area to exploit with Dorrell Wright - primarily a spot-up, three-point shooter - attacking the Celtics off the dribble and finding much success.
Keeping the Celtics within striking distance was what has become their newest offensive weapon - the free throw line.
Boston came in averaging 24 free throw attempts per game. They had more than that (27) by the end of the third quarter.
Even with freebies from the line, Boston still found itself playing catch-up in the quarter which ended with the Sixers ahead, 83-74.