Led by their All-Star point guard, the Philadelphia 76ers are trying to stay afloat in the Eastern Conference as they await the debut of their marquee addition.
They'll try to win two straight for the first time in two months on Monday night when they host the Memphis Grizzlies, who look for their leading scorer to snap his recent slump.
Philadelphia is 8-19 since a 10-6 start to the season, but still sits ninth in the East standings. With offseason acquisition Andrew Bynum remaining sidelined because of bilateral bone bruises and weakened cartilage in his knees, Jrue Holiday has elevated his play to become the 76ers' youngest ever All-Star at 22 years of age.
Holiday leads the team with 19.4 points per game and ranks fourth in the league with 8.9 assists. He scored a career-high 35 points in a 97-80 win over New York on Saturday, only Philadelphia's third in 11 games. It was the opener of an eight-game homestand for the Sixers, their longest since 1986.
Bynum's return date is still unknown, but he continues to increase his workload.
"When he's healthy and on the court, he's one heck of a player," said associate head coach Michael Curry. Curry is filling in for coach Doug Collins, who left the game in the third quarter and is listed as day-to-day with a sinus infection.
"The fact that he's starting to do some things in shootaround, his level of activity is picked up, and he's here working three hours or so, you're going to get excited," Curry said.
Philadelphia's offense has suffered without one of its cornerstones, ranking near the bottom of the NBA at 93.3 ppg. Hoping for a scoring boost, the Sixers inserted Spencer Hawes and Nick Young as starters on Saturday for their first and fourth starts of the season, respectively.
Young responded with his second straight 20-point game while Hawes only had four points after scoring 21 against Milwaukee four nights earlier.
"I just think that Spencer and Nick have both been playing well as of late," Curry said. "They both are offensive threats out there to start the game. Hopefully it can jump-start us."
Philadelphia hasn't won two in a row since a three-game run Nov. 25-30.
Memphis (28-15) had won four of five but Rudy Gay struggled again on Sunday in a 91-83 home loss to New Orleans. Gay had 10 points on 3-of-17 shooting, including a 1-of-7 clip from beyond the arc and the Grizzlies shot 36.4 percent overall.
Gay leads Memphis in scoring at 17.0 ppg but is averaging 12.6 over his last five contests while going 24 of 82 from the field (29.3 percent). He's a 40.4 percent shooter on the season.
"Just taking too many jump shots," coach Lionel Hollins said. "We got to attack the basket. Wasn't just him."
Point guard Mike Conley is day-to-day after he turned his ankle in the first quarter and did not return. He was seen in a walking boot in the locker room afterward but Hollins said he expects him to play Monday.
Zach Randolph remains a force inside for the Grizzlies, posting 20 points and 13 rebounds in the loss for his league-leading 28th double-double.
Memphis has won three straight against Philadelphia, including an 89-76 victory on Feb. 21 in the most recent matchup. Marc Gasol had 15 points and 14 rebounds for the Grizzlies while Holiday scored a game-high 22 for the 76ers.
The Associated Press News Service
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