With their Atlantic Division lead on the verge of slipping away, the Philadelphia 76ers are probably looking forward to a matchup with the worst team in the league.
Trips to Charlotte haven’t often brought out the best in the 76ers, though, and the Bobcats will bring a healthier team into Monday night’s game at Time Warner Cable Arena than during the season’s first two meetings.
Philadelphia’s lead in the division has been cut from three games to 1 1/2 during a three-game losing streak, and it suffered its latest defeat when it failed to take advantage of an early 14-point lead in Chicago on Saturday. The 76ers held the Eastern Conference leaders to 11 points in the first quarter but gave up 25 or more in each of the last three periods of an 89-80 defeat.
They gave away the lead for good while scoring 15 points in the third quarter, and a declining offense has plagued the team during its current 7-13 stretch. Philadelphia (25-20) has been one of the lowest-scoring teams in the league over that span, averaging 91.0 points – 5.7 fewer than during its 18-7 start.
The 76ers are averaging 84.0 points during their three-game skid after scoring at least 103 in three consecutive victories.
“We are a young team that has to learn how to play together and through those types of challenges. We are trying to find ourselves as a team,” forward Elton Brand said. “Defensively we can play with anybody. Now we have to learn how to do that offensively.”
Jrue Holiday was the only player to score more than 10 points Saturday with a career-high and 76ers season-high 30. He attempted 27 shots, seven more than in any other game during his career, while starters Brand, Andre Iguodala and Evan Turner were held to a combined 15 points.
Holiday had 19 in a 98-89 win in Charlotte on Feb. 13. Louis Williams had a team-best 23 points off the bench and Thaddeus Young chipped in 20.
That victory snapped a six-game road losing streak to the Bobcats and was the 76ers’ third in 13 all-time trips to Charlotte.
Philadelphia has won four of five overall in the series but Bobcats point guard D.J. Augustin missed both matchups this season because of inflammation in his toe.
A strained right hamstring kept Gerald Henderson out during last month’s visit from Philadelphia, and leading scorer Corey Maggette was dealing with a strained left hamstring during an 89-72 loss in Philadelphia on Jan. 27.
With all three players back, Charlotte (7-36) has won two of its last four games and has a chance to earn back-to-back victories for the first time this season.
Henderson, Augustin and Maggette all topped 20 points while helping the Bobcats overcome an early 15-point deficit in a 107-103 victory over Toronto on Saturday.
“We played a good game as a team,” said Augustin, who scored a career-high 31 in a 100-97 home win over Philadelphia on Jan. 20, 2011 – the last time he faced the Sixers. “We’ve got to do that more often.”
Charlotte is trying to avoid getting swept in a season series with Philadelphia for the first time since 2004-05, its inaugural campaign.