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Bobcats-76ers Preview

AP - Sports

Strong defense keyed the Philadelphia 76ers' fast start, but lately they've had some trouble slowing down opponents.

Facing a Charlotte Bobcats team that could again be without its top two scorers might help them get back on track.

The 76ers try to avoid losing back-to-back games for the first time Friday night when they host the woeful Bobcats.

Philadelphia (12-6) won 10 of 13 games through Jan. 16, holding opponents to league lows of 40.6 percent from the field and 25.3 from 3-point range while ranking second in points allowed (85.8 per game). The Sixers have since lost three of five games and the defense hasn't been as sound, surrendering averages of 95.4 points on 47.0 percent shooting from the floor and 37.3 from beyond the arc.

Part of Philadelphia's struggles may stem from injuries to its top two centers. Starter Spencer Hawes has sat out the last five games with a left Achilles strain and his backup, rookie Nik Vucevic, missed the last two because of a left quad strain. Both are listed as day to day.

"We definitely need our bigs," Elton Brand said after Wednesday's 97-90 overtime loss to New Jersey. "We're looking forward to getting them back, but we just couldn't get stops."

The Sixers could have better luck against the Bobcats (3-16), who are averaging a league-worst 85.0 points since Jan. 6 and might be missing starters Gerald Henderson and D.J. Augustin.

Henderson, scoring a team-high 15.4 points per game, sat out his first contest of the season Wednesday against Washington with a sore back and his status is uncertain. Augustin, who averages 13.6 points and a team-best 6.6 assists, has missed the last two games with an inflamed toe and will miss at least three more.

Without them, the Bobcats showed little life in a 92-75 loss to the Wizards, shooting 35.9 percent en route to their sixth straight defeat and 12th in 13 games. Matt Carroll, who came in averaging 2.2 points, scored a team-high 17 in his first start, while rookie Cory Higgins also recorded a season best with 13.

"Talent is what's most important in this league. If you don't have the talent, it's very difficult to win, it's very difficult to execute, it's very difficult to do anything," coach Paul Silas said. "Right now, we just don't have that. Our scorers, our two leading scorers are not playing, how are we gonna score?"

Playing without Augustin doesn't bode well considering how instrumental he was to Charlotte's lone win in three games against the Sixers last season. He scored a career-best 31 in a 100-97 victory last Jan. 20.

Andre Iguodala and Thaddeus Young led Philadelphia against the Bobcats last season, each averaging 16.7 points, but neither has been scoring much lately.

In his last three games, Iguodala is averaging 7.7 points - 5.5 below his season average. Young is averaging 10.0 points in his last three contests after combining to score 42 in his previous two.

The Sixers, 8-2 at the Wells Fargo Center, are two games into a seven-game homestand.

The Bobcats, 3-10 all-time in Philadelphia, have lost seven consecutive road games and were held below 90 points in all of them.

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