CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - The Philadelphia 76ers were determined not to get caught up in a trap game.
With important games against divisional foes New York and Boston looming later this week, it would have been easy for the first-place 76ers to overlook the NBA-worst Charlotte Bobcats.
But that didn't happen.
Jrue Holiday had 20 points and six assists as the 76ers defeated the Bobcats 105-80 on Monday night to sweep the three-game season series between the teams.
Holiday, coming off a career-high 30 points in Saturday's night loss at Chicago, was 8-of-13 shooting from the field and made all four shots from the free-throw line.
The 76ers broke open a tight game at halftime behind a stingy third-quarter defense, outscoring the Bobcats 31-19 to pull away.
The Bobcats shot just 29 percent from the field in the second half against a 76ers team that came in with the NBA's best defense, holding opponents to an average of 87.8 points per game and 41.8 percent shooting from the field.
``They put a little pressure on us defensively and we just couldn't score in the second half,' Bobcats coach Paul Silas said.
Philadelphia coach Doug Collins said before the game the key to snapping the losing skid was to get a more balanced scoring attack from his players.
And he got it.
Thaddeus Young had 20 points and Louis Williams chipped in with 19 for the 76ers. Philadelphia also got a solid effort from Elton Brand, who scored eight of his 16 points in a pivotal third quarter to break open a two-point game at halftime.
``It was imperative, we had to have this game,' Brand said. ``That is what coach's message was at halftime. He said this doesn't look like a game that's very important to us. Let's hustle and get on the boards and get on the loose balls and play the way we can play.'
Said Holiday: ``That's the way we win games is when the scoring is even across the board. We have to have that.'
The Bobcats shot an impressive 49 percent in the first half to stay close despite the absence of Corey Maggette, who sat out with a back injury.
However, things fell apart in the third quarter for the Bobcats - just as they've done so often this season - and they were held to 6-of-22 shooting, allowing the 76ers to seize momentum of the game.
The 76ers maintained a 1 1/2-game lead over Boston, which beat Atlanta 79-76, and stretched their margin to 4 1/2 games over New York in the Atlantic.
``You don't want to look ahead on your schedule but when you lose three in a row, you start doing a lot of things out of character,' Williams said. ``We're serious about trying to win this division and now we have to play the number two and three teams this week so we felt like it was important to get this one tonight.'
The 76ers held a 51-31 edge on the boards, behind 11 rebounds from Spencer Hawes.
Hawes, whose playing time has been limited due to a strained Achilles tendon, said after the game this was the best he's felt in a while.
He played 24 minutes in all and had his first double-double since Jan. 16.
``The first half, I was waiting a little bit and pressing,' said Hawes, who had 13 points. ``I have to just get used to play under those (playing time) limitations.'
Said Collins: ``I talked to Spencer about how he needed to get back to being on the boards. I thought he was drifting out and wasn't playing with the toughness I needed him to play with.'
Gerald Henderson had 14 points for the Bobcats, who failed to win back-to-back games for the first time this season. The Bobcats (7-37) remain the only team in the league that hasn't won 10 games.
``We are a young club and we have to learn,' Silas said. ``Playing young guys as much as we have to play them they're going to make mistakes and it's very difficult when you're playing a team like that, who has experienced players. It's not easy. It usually takes two to three years to learn how to play this game. We just need that experience.'
Notes: Henderson is averaging 15 points per game over the last five games for the Bobcats. ... Young has scored 20-plus points six times this season.
The Associated Press News Service
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