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76ers-Bobcats Preview

The Associated Press

If they hope to be playing their best heading into the second playoff appearance in franchise history, the Charlotte Bobcats certainly can't afford another loss to one of the league's bottom feeders.

With Kemba Walker sitting out, Charlotte looks to bounce back and stay in the hunt for the sixth seed Saturday night when the Philadelphia 76ers try to avoid their 16th loss in 17 road games.

The Bobcats (40-39) seemed to be playing their best at the right time while allowing 89.8 points during a season-best five-game winning streak. But that run came in an end in Friday's 106-103 road loss to Boston, which is tied for the NBA's fourth-worst record and had dropped its previous nine contests.

''We just didn't put much into the game,'' coach Steve Clifford said.

After playing 44 minutes in Wednesday's 94-88 win at Washington, Walker was unable to play because of a groin injury he may have suffered late in the victory that put Charlotte briefly ahead of the Wizards for sixth place in the East. He'll sit out again Sunday after having an MRI on Saturday that showed no serious problems.

Clifford hopes to have Walker back on the floor Monday night when the Bobcats visit Atlanta.

Luke Ridnour will start in Walker's spot and Jannero Pargo will see additional minutes in a reserve role.

Al Jefferson finished with 32 points and 10 rebounds Friday. Jefferson has averaged 24.8 points and 13.3 rebounds over a season-best run of six straight double-doubles.

Charlotte has clinched its first playoff berth since its only appearance in the franchise's nine-year history in 2009-10. Although they own the tiebreaker with Washington, the Bobcats fell a game back of the sixth seed following the Wizards' 96-86 win in Orlando on Friday.

''We got what we deserved,'' Jefferson said. ''There was no way we can go in the playoffs with that type of mindset.''

Charlotte appears to have a solid opportunity to regroup against a Philadelphia team it defeated by 30 points just last week.

Jefferson led the way with 25 points and 10 rebounds in that contest as the Bobcats shot 53.2 percent from the field - including 12 of 22 from 3-point range - and led 63-38 at the half en route to the easy win.

Philadelphia (17-62), which owns the league's second-worst record, dropped its third straight with a 117-95 loss at Memphis on Friday. Tony Wroten finished with 18 points for the 76ers, who have dropped 15 of 16 road games.

Since ending their NBA record-tying 26-game losing streak, they've gone 1-5 while giving up an average of 111.8 points.

After averaging 19.0 points and 52.5 percent shooting in his previous six games, Michael Carter-Williams was held to eight points on 4-of-13 shooting Friday. The Rookie of the Year candidate did not play due to right knee soreness in Charlotte on Dec. 6, when Walker had 18 points and 10 assists and Gerald Henderson scored 18 in the Bobcats' 105-88 win.

Carter-Williams, however, played a key role with 20 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, while Young hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 3.2 seconds left in a 95-92 home victory Jan. 15.

Jefferson had 24 points and eight rebounds in that contest, while Walker scored 26 with eight assists.

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