Spencer Hawes has tried to blossom into a leader in the locker room. As a 76ers season full of promise collapsed under injury and underachievement, he pulled the team together and delivered a message: Stay together.
His encouragement mattered. His all-around terrific play has meant more.
Hawes had 18 points, a season-best eight assists and career highs with 16 rebounds and seven blocked shots to lead Philadelphia to a 98-91 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Saturday night.
''I really like the nucleus we have here and what we've built here,'' Hawes said. ''This year has been tough on everybody. I think if we can keep the right mindset going forward, and finish out strong, I think the future is bright.''
Jrue Holiday added 27 points and 12 assists to help the Sixers win for only the third time in 15 games. While the Sixers are one of the worst road teams in the league, they are 19-17 at home.
The Sixers led by one at the end of the third quarter, then opened the fourth on a 19-4 run to put away the Pacers. Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young each contributed some lead-stretching buckets in the fourth to put all five starters in double figures.
''It's fun when the ball is moving,'' Holiday said. ''I think I got most of my points just from, actually from Spencer. Just somebody passing it backdoor.''
The 76ers had enough this time to finish off one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference. They had a late lead and the Heat on the ropes until they blew it and lost by four Wednesday night.
Just like they did against Miami, the Sixers got into an early groove in the quarter to put the upset alert on notice. Dorell Wright hit a 3-pointer and Lavoy Allen came off the bench to score his first two baskets to get a big run going. They forced turnovers on consecutive possessions at one point during the spurt and built a 10-point lead.
Somehow, Hawes, the much-maligned 7-foot-1 center, outplayed Roy Hibbert. Hawes has settled in nicely as a starter after an erratic first 42 games as a reserve. He had a fantastic one-handed rebound over Hibbert's head in the third that put the crowd of 18,587 on their feet. Hawes had six blocked shots through the first three quarters and made the Pacers think twice about going inside.
Hawes could have used a few more games like this one to make the season-long absence of Andrew Bynum (bone bruises) a bit more palatable. Instead, the Sixers are limping toward the finish line and a brutal road stretch to end the season looms.
But those are concerns for another day. Not even Paul George's 3-pointer with 33 seconds left to cut it to five was enough to scare the Sixers.
They beat the Nets behind 24 points and 10 rebounds from Hawes to open a four-game homestand and finish Monday against Portland. With three outstanding performances against three top teams, the Sixers are left wondering why they haven't played like this all season.
''Yeah, but there's no point about worrying about what's happened in the past,'' Hawes said.
The Pacers were coming off a 99-93 loss to the Lakers on Friday night and lost to the Sixers for the first time in three games this season.
Hibbert had 25 points and 10 rebounds. George had 18 points and 14 rebounds. David West ran into early foul trouble but finished with 18 points.
The Pacers have dropped four of six and their defense has not been as stout as it was over most of the first half.
''We're hitting that point in the season. It's a grind,'' coach Frank Vogel said. ''Guys have played all season a heck of a lot more minutes than they've ever played before. It seems we're a step slow in a lot of areas. We've got to grind through it. It's a concern, not alarming.''
Holiday, Philadelphia's All-Star guard, set the pace early with a sensational first half. He scored 20 points on 9-of-13 shooting with six assists. Wright hit a pair of 3s that helped turn an eight-point hole into a four-point lead.
Hibbert scored 14 points in the first half, including a tip-in just before the buzzer to send Indiana into halftime with a 49-48 lead.
''We just died on plays,'' George said. ''It's as simple as that.''
Wright and Young each scored 13 points. The Sixers had 28 assists on 39 baskets and a season-high 14 blocks.
''When you're moving the ball I think that gives everybody a lot of confidence to knock down shots, get easy buckets, get to the free-throw line, all that,'' Holiday said.
Notes: Hall of Famer and 76ers great Julius Erving presented the game ball. Erving attended the game on his bobblehead night. ... Vogel conceded the Pacers can't catch the Heat for best record in the East. He said the Pacers hope to win the Central Division. ... Hawes' previous career high in rebounds was 15. ... Philadelphia's 14 blocks were the most in game since 2009.