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3-25

76ers-Bobcats Preview

AP - Sports

After needing 45 games to get 20 wins last season, the Philadelphia 76ers are in position to do it in 16 fewer if they can beat the Charlotte Bobcats.

That doesn't seem like it should be a problem.

The 76ers look to become the fourth team to 20 victories Monday night when they visit the scuffling Bobcats, who are mired in a franchise-record 14-game losing streak.

Philadelphia (19-9) is atop the Atlantic Division and arrives in Charlotte after defeating Cleveland 99-84 on Saturday. Jrue Holiday had 20 points to lead six players in double figures as the 76ers rebounded from their first consecutive losses of the season.

"It was really important to end it now,'' said Holiday, second on the team with 13.9 points per game. "We wish we could have ended it after one game, but that didn't happen.''

The Sixers appear to have a good chance to make it two straight by visiting the Bobcats (3-24), who they beat 89-72 on Jan. 27. Louis Williams, who averages a team-best 15.7 points, scored 17, while Holiday added 15 and Jodie Meeks chipped in 14 as Philadelphia led by as many as 30.

Those kinds of deficits have been common for the Bobcats.

After losing to Chicago 95-64 on Friday, Charlotte fell behind by as many as 34 in Saturday's 111-86 loss to the Clippers, establishing a new franchise record with its 14th straight defeat. The Bobcats, winless since beating Golden State on Jan. 14, have been outscored by an average of 24.9 points in their last six games.

"We're just not playing hard as a group,'' said Corey Maggette, who on Saturday made his first start since a hamstring strain sidelined him in early January. "We're just not doing the right things right. Ultimately we need to make shots. We're shooting like 32 percent as a group and that's not going to cut it, especially against a good team.''

The Bobcats are averaging 77.3 points and 37.2 percent shooting in their last six and will likely have another tough time offensively against Philadelphia.

The Sixers are one of the league's top defensive teams, allowing an average of 86.7 points and 41.7 percent shooting. They limited Charlotte to 38.6 percent from the field last month.

Making matters even worse for the Bobcats is they're once again expected to be without both Gerald Henderson and D.J. Augustin.

Henderson, who averages a team-best 15.0 points, is nursing a strained right hamstring, while Augustin, second on the team with 13.6 points per game, has missed 10 straight with an inflamed big toe.

Rookie Kemba Walker is shouldering more of the offensive load in their absence. He had 19 points Saturday and a team-best 14 in Philadelphia in January.

Still, the loss of their two leading scorers is only making things harder for the league's lowest-scoring team (86.3 ppg).

"You know, and I never make excuses but the fact is that 30 of our points are sitting on the bench,'' coach Paul Silas said. "We don't have 30 points and if you take 30 points off anybody's roster, it's going to be tough. ... It's a real problem.''

The Sixers, who have significantly more scoring balance, could again be without Spencer Hawes, one of their eight players averaging at least 9.0 points. The 7-foot-1 center has sat out the last three games with a strained left Achilles.

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