76ers top Rockets, stop losing streak

January 6, 2009 8:31:49 PM PST
All the 76ers needed to finally beat a team from Texas was to fly out of the Lone Star State and head home. Once back in Philadelphia, Andre Iguodala took over.

Iguodala tied his season high with 28 points and the reeling 76ers returned home from a dreadful road trip to beat the Houston Rockets 104-96 on Tuesday night.

"It was a bigger win than just a 'W' from a morale standpoint," Iguodala said

The Sixers lost at Dallas and San Antonio in the final two games of a 1-5 road trip and had lost six of seven overall, parking them in last place in the Atlantic Division.

Playing at the Wachovia Center and rediscovering that fast-break spark was the perfect tonic. Iguodala continued on his recent scoring surge and scored nine points in the third quarter to help the Sixers stretch the lead to 11.

Iguodala nailed a 3-pointer in front of the Rockets bench late in the fourth to halt Houston's 11-2 run that had sliced the gap to six. He sank a runner in the lane for a 98-92 lead that dashed Houston's last-gasp at a comeback win. He shot 12-of-19 from the floor.

"I'm warming up a little bit and starting to get that feel that I've been trying to get all year," Iguodala said.

Iguodala has scored 20-plus points in four straight games and is averaging 20.1 points over the last 17 games after his average dipped to 13.0 through the first 17 games of the season.

"It's just about being aggressive again and attacking the basket," he said.

Now, it's the Rockets who want to get back to Texas. They've lost five straight on the road for the first time since 2004. Houston has lost three straight overall for the first time this season.

Luis Scola led six Rockets in double figures with 18 points and grabbed 17 rebounds.

Playing for the second straight game without forward Ron Artest (ankle), the Rockets may as well have also played without Tracy McGrady in the second half. McGrady didn't make his first basket of the half until 2:07 remained to make it 98-94, then watched as Sixers rookie Maurice Speights rattled the rim with a dunk that pushed the lead back to six.

"We have to really start looking at things and finding out why we're giving up way too high of a percentage to every team that we play," Rockets coach Rick Adelman said. "You can't win on the road unless you defend and we haven't been doing it."

The Sixers entered shooting 49 percent from the floor, but won for the first time at home since Dec. 17 by shooting a robust 56 percent. That kind of percentage is exactly what the Sixers need if they want to vault back into the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

"We didn't try and make any home run plays," said 76ers guard Lou Williams, who scored 15. "We kept it simple, got the shots and won."

The Rockets kept pace for a half, had assists on the first 10 baskets of the game and led 55-53 at the break.

Then the Sixers got rolling. Thaddeus Young dunked off the break and Iguodala tied the game on a driving layup, the first two baskets of a 19-4 run that gave them a 72-61 lead. Philly dominated on the break, outscoring the Rockets 29-9, making this game a bit like its style of play as it ran into last season's playoffs.

"That's the way we want to play," Iguodala said.

The Sixers slowed down a bit this season with the free-agent acquisition of Elton Brand and have stumbled to a 14-20 start. Brand is making progress while rehabbing his injured right shoulder and the forward could be back with the team in about two weeks.

Philadelphia only hopes it can still run and work in Brand as the perfect trailer on the break, and needs him to get back to his usual double-double style when it calls a halfcourt set to put the playoffs on the horizon.

"We slid a little bit in the standings and we've got to get back there," Iguodala said. "The only way to get back there is go get games. You've got to go get it and that's what we're trying to do."

McGrady, Yao Ming, Von Wafer and Carl Landry all scored 14 points for the Rockets.

"For whatever reason, we've taken a step back on the defensive end," McGrady said. "In the past, it's been our makeup. No matter how much we struggled on offense, we always played defense." Notes: Andre Miller passed Larry Bird on the career assist list. He's now 32nd. ... Brand hasn't played for the struggling Sixers since he sustained a fracture and tear in his right shoulder on Dec. 17 against Milwaukee. ... Rockets C Dikembe Mutombo did not play. ... The 76ers wished the Eagles luck in their playoff game against the Giants. ... The 76ers haven't had a 30-point scorer this season.