CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- When the Philadelphia 76ers needed a spark, there was a familiar face on hand to provide it.
Lou Williams, who has developed into perhaps the NBA's most dangerous sixth man, scored 23 points off the bench as the 76ers built an early lead and held on to send the Charlotte Bobcats to their 15th straight defeat, 98-89 on Monday night.
If Williams continues on this pace, he'll become the first NBA player since Dell Curry of the Charlotte Hornets to lead his team in scoring despite not starting a game.
Over the past five games, Williams is averaging 19.8 points per game off the bench.
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He stayed hot Monday night, making several big shots including a 3-pointer with 6:11 remaining after the Bobcats had pulled to within 71-69. He also hit a 3-pointer in the final minute to seal Philadelphia's second straight win.
"We have this saying that you have a starring role on this team, no matter what that role is," Williams said. "I've been able to do that and give us a spark. It's been one of my better years. I've been very pleased with the role I've been playing."
Williams' effort off the bench has become so commonplace that his teammates don't think twice about it anymore.
"He always puts the crowd to sleep," said Thaddeus Young, who added 20 points on 6-of-9 shooting. "Anytime we're [on the road] he always puts the crowd to sleep with a big 3 or a couple of those little floaters he's knocking down in the lane, or just any way of scoring. He always seems to amaze everybody and he brings the show."
Corey Maggette scored a season-high 22 points for Charlotte (3-25), but it wasn't enough to snap the longest losing streak in franchise history. The loss drops the Bobcats' winning percentage below that of the 1972-73 76ers, who finished with the worst record ever in the NBA at 9-72.
Still, after blowout losses to Los Angeles and Chicago the Bobcats left the arena encouraged.
"We had a better effort tonight," Maggette said. "Tonight, we played better and we actually had a chance. For us, that's a step in the right direction."
The game took on a familiar theme early on for the Bobcats.
For the third straight game, the Bobcats shot less than 34 percent from the field in the first quarter and found themselves behind by double digits. Jrue Holiday scored Philadelphia's first eight points of the game after hitting his first four shots from the field as the 76ers jumped out to a 28-17 lead.
But the 76ers were not able to distance themselves from the Bobcats, who finally started making some plays on defense.
"One thing we haven't been doing this year is trusting each other," Walker said. "Today, we trusted each other in rotations and then we made steals."
The Bobcats clawed back to within two with 6:11 left in the game after a pair of defensive stops and back-to-back 3-pointers by Walker, one of them coming on a shot so off-balanced Walker couldn't help but crack a smile and shake his head in disbelief as he jogged back down the court.
"I ain't never seen that many [running 3s]," Young said. "Like I said, he's a great player. He can go out there and get 20 on any given night. We know what type of player he is. It's just about containing him and making him take tough shots like that. Sometimes he's going to make it, sometimes not."
"It's no surprise Michael Jordan loves a guy like that," 76ers coach Doug Collins said. "He has absolutely no fear."
But seconds later, Williams knocked home a 3-pointer from the wing to quell the rally. The Bobcats never mounted a challenge after that as the 76ers outscored the Bobcats 18-10 down the stretch.
Once again, the Bobcats were dominated in the paint, where the 76ers scored 42 of their points.
Collins believes the Bobcats' losing streak will end soon.
Bobcats coach Paul Silas said Augustin will play Wednesday at Minnesota and hopes Henderson could be back by the end of the week.
"I keep saying that once we get everybody back, we're going to be good," Silas said. "We had a 20-point scorer tonight in Corey Maggette and that's the first time we've had a 20 point scorer in I don't know when. So, if you give me back 15 from D.J. Augustin and 15 from Gerald Henderson, that's 30 points we're missing. I think we'll be a lot better."
|Lou Williams comes off the bench and scores 23 points to finish as the game's highest scorer. (AP)|
|Philadelphia (20-9) «||28||27||16||27||98|
|PHI:L. Williams 23 Pts
PHI:N. Vucevic 10 Reb
PHI:A. Iguodala 9 Ast
|CHA:C. Maggette 22 Pts
CHA:B. Mullens 9 Reb
CHA:B. Diaw 10 Ast
|Players of the Game|
|J. Holiday, PG||36||7-15||4-4||2||1||2||19|
|A. Iguodala, SG||35||1-6||1-2||3||9||2||3|
|J. Meeks, SG||32||4-12||0-0||5||0||3||11|
|E. Brand, PF||18||4-11||0-0||6||1||4||8|
|L. Allen, PF||16||1-2||0-0||1||3||3||2|
|T. Young, SF||34||6-9||8-9||6||0||0||20|
|L. Williams, SG||27||7-14||7-9||3||4||4||23|
|N. Vucevic, C||27||4-8||0-0||10||1||4||8|
|E. Turner, SG||15||2-6||0-0||4||2||3||4|
|T. Battie, PF||Did Not Play|
|F. Elson, C||Did Not Play|
|A. Nocioni, SF||Did Not Play|
|S. Hawes, C||Did Not Play|
|C. Brackins, PF||Did Not Play|
|Complete Box Score|
|B. Diaw, PF||39||1-3||0-0||5||10||2||2|
|K. Walker, PG||39||6-15||6-9||3||5||1||21|
|R. Williams, SF||39||5-13||2-2||5||1||2||14|
|C. Maggette, SF||32||8-16||6-8||2||0||3||22|
|B. Biyombo, PF||24||3-4||1-2||7||1||0||7|
|B. Mullens, C||24||4-13||5-5||9||0||2||13|
|D. Brown, SF||18||1-2||2-4||5||1||0||4|
|M. Carroll, SG||10||2-3||0-0||1||0||1||6|
|T. Thomas, PF||9||0-3||0-0||0||0||3||0|
|C. Higgins, PG||6||0-1||0-0||0||0||4||0|
|E. Najera, PF||Did Not Play|
|D. Diop, C||Did Not Play|
|D. Augustin, PG||Did Not Play|
|D. White, PF||Did Not Play|
|G. Henderson, SG||Did Not Play|
|Complete Box Score|