By Spike Eskin

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Even though they were winning, Doug Collins mentioned to the press that he’d seen “slippage” in the Sixers offense without Spencer Hawes, scoring fewer points per game and shooting a considerably lower perecentage. They made up for it by playing strong defense and limiting turnovers. Recently, the slippage has been too much to make up for.

The Sixers (20-13) have lost four in a row, scoring 87, 75, 91 and 76 points. The defense has been tougher, but the half-court offense has completely stalled. Injuries to Spencer Hawes and Elton Brand haven’t helped, and an offense that was successful making open jump shots has stopped making those shots. They haven’t been getting to the free throw line either, out-shot by their opponents in five straight games, including shooting only eight free throws to the Grizzlies’ 29 on Tuesday night. Their most dependable offensive weapon, Lou Williams, has gone cold as well.

The Sixers haven’t scored 100 points or more since January 23rd, against the Washington Wizards.

The Rockets (19-14) come in having won two in a row, including a 97-93 victory over Memphis on Monday. They’re led by a backcourt featuring Kevin Martin and Kyle Lowry. Kevin Martin is having a very Kevin Martin-like year, averaging about 18 points per game. Villanova product Kyle Lowry is having a career year, averaging 15.7 points per game, 5.2 rebounds and 7.7 assists. Lowry has cemented himself in the discussion when talking about the best point guards in the NBA. Not in the Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Rajon Rondo “elite” category, but the best of the rest.

After facing Marreese Speights last night, the Sixers will see another member of the Sixers not-motivated-enough-frontcourt alumni club tonight in Sam Dalembert. Dalembert, once signed to a mega-contract in Philadelphia that he never quite lived up to, has generally done as he’s been asked in Houston, grabbing rebounds and blocking shots. Dalembert lost his starting job briefly to Patrick Patterson, but has since gained it back.

The Sixers will again be without their starting frontcourt of Spencer Hawes (Achilles) and Elton Brand (thumb). Coach Doug Collins started Andres Nocioni in Brand’s place on Tuesday night, without much success. The Grizzlies exploited Nocini immediately, and once he left the game never returned.

It’s the Sixers last game before the All-Star break.

The game starts at 8pm and can be heard live on 94 WIP.

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