Four straight losses and a critical injury to their emerging point guard have left the Philadelphia 76ers searching for ways to overcome some serious setbacks.The Atlanta Hawks, meanwhile, are getting their first taste of adversity.
The Hawks try to bounce back from their first back-to-back losses of the season Friday night when they visit the Philadelphia 76ers, who will be without Louis Williams for the next two months.
Atlanta (11-4) had the Eastern Conference's best record and a 7-0 home start heading into a Thanksgiving night showdown against visiting Orlando, but a disastrous second half seemed to indicate the Hawks have some work to do to catch up with the reigning conference champions.
Coach Mike Woodson's club led by 12 at halftime but was dismantled from there, as the Magic outscored the Hawks 54-25 in the final 24 minutes en route to a 93-76 victory.
"It was like we forgot how we got the lead," Woodson said. "We played so differently in the second half, so we have to go break this tape down and figure out why that is."
The 76ers (5-10) have lost six of seven since a 4-4 start and four straight, and critical injuries are starting to pile up. Marreese Speights won't be back until January at the earliest with a torn MCL, and Elton Brand missed Wednesday's 113-110 loss at Boston with a right hamstring injury.
Brand is a game-time decision against Atlanta.
Of even bigger concern, though, is Williams' injury. The first-year starter, averaging 17.4 points and 5.1 assists, broke his jaw in Tuesday's loss at Washington and will miss eight weeks after undergoing surgery Thursday morning.
Williams had averaged 23.6 points in his last five games.
Rookie Jrue Holiday, the league's youngest player, had 10 points and six assists in the loss to Boston, which the Sixers weren't all that disappointed with considering their key absences.
"I thought as a team we came in and played well," said guard Willie Green, who had 18 points off the bench and figures to see his minutes increase with Williams out. "As a team I thought we tried to execute what the game plan was - to try and run and be physical with those guys."
While leading scorer Andre Iguodala (18.2 points per game) figures to shoulder even more of the offensive load with Williams out, the 76ers will likely need Thaddeus Young to step up. The third-year forward's numbers are slightly down across the board from his impressive statistics in 2008-09, but he's averaged 20.3 points in his last three games.
Young averaged 16.7 points as Philadelphia took two of three from Atlanta last season.
The player Young may find himself matched up against, meanwhile, may be the Hawks' most integral player. Josh Smith has averaged 16.7 points on 59.4 percent shooting in Atlanta's 11 wins, while being held to 11.8 points and 34.6 percent shooting in its four losses.
Smith averaged 20.0 points and shot 58.5 percent from the field against the Sixers in 2008-09, while Joe Johnson has averaged 25.0 points and 7.0 assists in his last five games versus Philadelphia.
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