76ers 108, Rockets 97

The 76ers’ freefall to the bottom of the Eastern Conference was

short-lived. A year after one of their worst seasons in more than a

decade, Andre Iguodala, Elton Brand and the Sixers are a win away

from the playoffs.

Jrue Holiday had 24 points and 12 assists, and Thaddeus Young

scored 22 points to lead Philadelphia to 108-97 win over the

Houston Rockets on Wednesday night.

The Sixers can clinch a playoff spot with one more victory or

one more loss by the Charlotte Bobcats. The Sixers can secure a

spot at home Friday vs. New Jersey; Charlotte plays at Orlando the

same night.

Iguodala had 10 assists and the Sixers had 30 of them on 46

baskets. He scored nine points and grabbed eight rebounds in

another game where he found ways to contribute even as he’s

bothered by various knee and hamstring injuries.

Sixers coach Doug Collins said Iguodala will need two months of

rest before he is completely recovered. It’s a break Iguodala hope

doesn’t start for a few more weeks – or months.

”If I feel like I can play, if I feel like can contribute in

any way, I’ll go out there and play,” Iguodala said. ”I’m just

trying to be unselfish. Obviously, it takes away from my aggression

at times.”

The Sixers won only 27 games last year and fired coach Eddie

Jordan after one season. Collins was hired out of the TNT broadcast

booth and, after a rough adjustment, has the Sixers among the top

teams in the NBA over the last few months.

Spencer Hawes and Jodie Meeks each scored 12 points for the

Sixers, who hit the 100-point mark for the 11th time in 15

games.

”One step closer, 39 wins now, which is fabulous,” Collins

said.

Kyle Lowry led the Rockets with 19 points and Kevin Martin had

18. Luis Scola scored 17 and Chase Budinger 15.

The Rockets cruised in a 112-87 win over New Jersey on Tuesday

night, moving them within two games of eighth-place Memphis in the

West, but their playoff push took a hit down I-95.

”We’ve got to win every game from here on out, it’s as simple

as that,” Lowry said. ”It’s pretty much do-or-die right

now.”

Young gave the Sixers a serious scare after a hard fall in

Monday’s 97-85 win at Chicago. Collins thought Young blew out his

knee, but it was a strained groin, not severe enough to keep him

out of the lineup – or affect his shooting. Young made 11 of 19

shots, all around the basket, and fell a rebound shy of a

double-double.

Young scored the first two baskets during a decisive 10-2 spurt

early in the fourth. His short hook late in the game put the Sixers

up 102-90 and secured their second straight victory against a team

with a winning record.

The Rockets made 21 of 22 free throws; the 76ers 11 of 12.

The Sixers kept pace with Houston’s potent offense in the first

half, then kept knocking shots down in the second as Houston faded

in the fourth.

The Sixers have no All-Stars and their four-month rise in the

Eastern Conference standings from a 3-13 start has been all about

teamwork in the starting five and major contributions off the

bench. Both were on display against Houston.

In the first quarter, the Sixers had 12 assists on 14 baskets.

Young continued his push for recognition as one of the league’s top

sixth men, and reserve guard Lou Williams scored 15 points.

”We have a lot of guys who can come off the bench and score at

will,” Young said. ”We don’t need guys to come in and score

20.”

The Sixers are so balanced that they have six players averaging

double-digits in scoring. But leading scorer Elton Brand (14.8

entering Wednesday) is tied for only 52nd in the league.

The Rockets will need wins and some help to make the playoffs.

Lowry, the former Villanova standout who was cheered in pregame

introductions, is trying to lead them there.

Lowry has stopped playing as a drive-only guard and worked to

become more of a deep-ball threat. Rockets coach Rick Adelman

called Lowry the team leader and ”kind of the reason we turned

this thing around.”

He showed a little bit of both in his return home. He hit his

first three 3-point attempts and a running jumper to end the first

half that put the Rockets up 55-52.

Lowry also showed his grit on a high-flying act over Houston’s

bench as he went for a loose ball and nearly tumbled into the

stands.

Lowry’s next 3 in the third stretched Houston’s lead to 76-70.

The Sixers rallied and Williams’ 3 at the end of the quarter gave

them an 84-82 lead.

Notes: Philadelphia’s 12 assists in the first were the most in

any quarter this season. … Young outscored the Rockets bench

22-20. … Holiday has 12 double-doubles this season.