Elton Brand had 17 points to help the Sixers avoid the embarrassment of becoming the first home team to lose to the Wizards this season. Washington is 0-17 on the road.
If any team was susceptible to losing to the Wizards, it was the Sixers. They lost the first two games of the season series at Washington in overtime by a combined three points.
This one was nearly as tight.
Holiday and Williams scored some breathing-room baskets in the fourth quarter to help the Sixers continue their push for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Nick Young scored 21 points for the Wizards, and John Wall had 18 points and 14 assists. Rashard Lewis scored 18 and Andray Blatche 17.
The Sixers played their first home game since a Dec. 17 loss to the Lakers. They hit the road and went 3-5 on the swing, which was a moderate success for a team that was one of the worst in the NBA last season.
It's a new year, new outlook under new coach Doug Collins. Yes, the Sixers are still chasing .500, but in the East, that's enough to have a playoff berth in sight.
Collins said before the game he has addressed the playoffs with the Sixers - and how this month is the time to make a move. Counting the Wizards game, the Sixers play five of six at home. This was the kind of game they couldn't afford to lose if they want to play meaningful games in April.
For three quarters, it looked as though it could happen.
Williams, an offensive spark off the bench, delivered clutch shots down the stretch and took over as the go-to shooter with Andre Iguodala out for the fifth straight game with Achilles' tendinitis.
Williams buried a long fadeaway over Kirk Hinrich, who scored 13 points, at the buzzer to send the Sixers into the fourth with a 76-75 lead.
Young put the Wizards up 81-80 early in the fourth with a 3-pointer and it appeared the road losing streak might be coming to an end.
Williams only extended the misery. Thaddeus Young found a hole and poked the ball through a double-team to Williams for a 3-pointer that gave the Sixers an 83-81 lead. Holiday made a sweet spin move around Young and was fouled on a basket, sank the free throw and that was enough to help the Sixers start to pull away.
Williams scored 12 points and hit both of his 3s in the fourth.
Andres Nocioni had 10 points and 10 rebounds for the Sixers.
Notes: Collins skipped shootaround because of flu/cold symptoms and slept most of the afternoon before returning for the game. ... The Sixers are 11-8 since starting the season 3-13. ... Hinrich played with goggles for the first time after he was poked in the eye. He had them cleaned and needed them adjusted throughout the game.