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95
12-21

76ers-Suns Preview

AP - Sports

It's becoming quite clear which player propels the Philadelphia 76ers, while the Phoenix Suns' offense, though balanced, is without a go-to scorer.

The visiting 76ers look to carry the momentum from a big road win into Wednesday night's matchup with a Suns team trying to snap a six-game losing streak.

Philadelphia (15-17) had lost eight of nine on the road prior to Tuesday's 103-99 win against the Los Angeles Lakers, the fifth stop on a season-high eight-game trip. Jrue Holiday continues to be the team's biggest difference maker, finishing with 26 points and 10 assists for his eighth double-double of the season.

Philadelphia got a glimpse of life without Holiday in mid-December, and it wasn't pretty. He was sidelined for four games with a sprained left foot, and the 76ers were outscored by an average of 13.0 points in losing each.

The 22-year-old Holiday is averaging a team-high 18.9 points and ranks third in the league with 8.9 assists per game. Those numbers are improved from 13.5 and 4.5, respectively, from last season.

"He is an incredibly hard worker," coach Doug Collins said. "He wants to be great. He lets our coaching staff coach him and he's playing with tremendous confidence.

"I'm thrilled with Jrue. We had to play four games without him. I don't want to do it again."

Holiday had one of his best performances in a 104-101 win over the Suns on Nov. 25, finishing with a career-high 33 points on 13-of-21 shooting to go with 13 assists. In four games against the Suns since 2010-11, he is averaging 20.3 points - his best against any opponent in that span - and Philadelphia has won each contest.

Phoenix (11-21), which has lost 13 of 17, doesn't have a clear star, relying on six players who average 10 or more points: Goran Dragic, Luis Scola, Shannon Brown, Jared Dudley, Marcin Gortat and Michael Beasley.

They continue to be bothered by poor execution in the fourth quarter, perhaps partially due to the lack of a reliable closer among the bunch. They trailed Oklahoma City 92-87 with 6:46 remaining on Monday, but lost 114-96. Phoenix shoots 42.2 percent from the field and averages 22.4 points in the final period, both its worst marks in any quarter.

"We have a problem of closing out games," said Marcin Gortat, who averages 11.3 points and 8.4 rebounds. "We just don't know how to execute in the last few minutes and we have to work on it. That's it."

Facing the Sixers might not help, considering they're holding opponents to an average of 22.8 points in the fourth quarter, the league's seventh-best mark.

Poor 3-point shooting is also plaguing the Suns during their skid. They're shooting 25.0 percent from distance over their last six and have made a total of 12 in their last three games. Meanwhile, opponents are hitting 40.2 percent of their 3-point shots over the last six.

Top 3-point shooters Dudley (39.0 percent) and Dragic (34.7 percent) are a combined 12 for 45 (26.7 percent) over the last six.

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