Rockets 93, 76ers 87

Kyle Lowry had a scraped right forearm, a sore right ankle and a

smile on his face after the Houston Rockets pulled out a grinding

victory over his hometown team on Wednesday night.

Lowry scored 13 points and converted two crucial three

point-plays in the final two minutes of the Rockets’ 93-87 win over

the Philadelphia 76ers, Houston’s third straight victory.

The Philly native and former Villanova star took hard shots on

both drives, but the points turned out to be the margin of victory

in both teams’ final game before the All-Star break.

”I hit the floor a few times but it doesn’t matter, we got the

win,” said Lowry, who briefly left in the first quarter after

spraining his right ankle.

Luis Scola had 19 points and 10 rebounds and Kevin Martin scored

16 points for Houston, which snapped a four-game home-court losing

streak to Philadelphia.

The Rockets head into the break at 20-14, and in much better

shape than last season, when they were five games under .500 at

All-Star weekend.

”I’m never going to say we’re overachieving, or

underachieving,” Lowry said. ”I think we’re a good team, and I

think we’re going where we’re supposed to be going.”

The 76ers, meanwhile, are limping into the break on a five-game

losing streak, and their top two rebounders – Spencer Hawes (left

Achilles strain) and Elton Brand (right thumb sprain) are out

indefinitely.

”I would say that we’d be happy to be where we are now, when

the season started,” Andre Iguodala said. ”We put ourselves in

position to be one of the top teams in our division. We are where

we want to be, but not playing the way we want to now. Every team

is going through tough stretches like this.”

Nikola Vucevic scored a career-high 18 points and Thaddeus Young

had 15 for the 76ers, who lost for only the second time in their

past nine meetings with Houston.

Philly was held without a 3-pointer for the first time this

season, missing all nine attempts. The Rockets went 5 for 18 from

3-point range, with all but one of the makes coming in the second

half.

The lead changed hands five times in the final five minutes

before Lowry drove into Vucevic for a layup, drew the foul and made

the free throw for an 86-84 lead.

Louis Williams made a free throw with 1:38 remaining, but Lowry

then converted another three-point play, drawing a foul on Young

this time, with 59 seconds left to make it 89-85.

Williams slipped on the baseline in front of the Houston bench,

the 76ers’ 13th turnover, and the Rockets hit their free throws in

the last minute to preserve the victory.

”Good thing we won,” Martin said. ”That would’ve been a bad

loss for us. We played with a little bit of fire.”

Lowry also had eight rebounds and Chandler Parsons scored 12

points for the Rockets. Williams scored 17 points for the

76ers.

Both teams shot poorly early, and neither had scored 10 points

midway through the first quarter. Lowry left four minutes into the

game after stepping on Scola’s foot, and he limped to the locker

room with athletics trainer Keith Jones.

Houston found its shooting touch first and took a 19-16 lead.

Lowry returned to the bench with Jones in the last minute of the

quarter, and was back on the floor for the start of the second.

The Rockets picked up the offensive pace in the third quarter,

stretching the lead to eight points. The 76ers attacked Houston’s

small lineup inside, answering with a 10-0 run that gave them a

56-54 lead.

Houston went cold late in the third quarter, and mustered only

16 points on 7-for-17 shooting. The 76ers scored 14 of their 24

third-quarter points in the paint and led 65-61 heading to the

fourth.

Martin swished back-to-back 3-pointers near the nine-minute mark

to keep Houston within three. After Thaddeus Young scored inside,

Martin hit another 3 and Patrick Patterson scored to tie it at

75-all.

Notes: The Rockets have won 24 consecutive games when holding

their opponent to less than 90 points. … Lowry missed his first

free-throw attempt, after making his previous 25. … The 76ers

dropped to 7-2 in the second game of back-to-back sets this season.

… Philly coach Doug Collins couldn’t give a timetable for Hawes’

return from a left Achilles strain. Collins said Hawes will visit a

doctor in Los Angeles during the All-Star break and wear a

protective boot.