The Philadelphia 76ers took another step toward returning to the playoffs while damaging Houston’s post-season ambitions in a 108-97 victory over the Rockets on Wednesday.
Philadelphia, under first-year coach Doug Collins, have enjoyed a resurgence and are currently sixth in the Eastern Conference with a 39-36 record. They won just 27 games last season.
“That’s the goal, to keep getting better from here on out,” 76ers forward Elton Brand said. “We’re one step closer. We really wanted to get this win.”
Guard Jrue Holiday recorded 24 points and 12 assists, while Thaddeus Young added 22 points as the 76ers put the game out of reach with a 14-4 run in the fourth quarter that gave them a 102-90 lead with 2 minutes, 32 seconds remaining.
Houston (39-36) fell three games out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the West.
Kyle Lowry had 19 points and Kevin Martin added 18, but the Rockets slipped up after having won six of their previous seven games.
“You lose and then you’re hoping other teams lose,” Martin said. “We’ve got seven more games left and we have to make the best of it.”
Houston built a 76-70 lead late in the third quarter, before Philadelphia turned the momentum and grabbed a two-point lead by the end of the quarter, which they held to the end of the game.
Philadelphia started the season with a record of 3-13, but have turned things around with a complete team effort. Lou Williams came off the bench to score 15 points, while starter Andre Iguodala made 10 assists and their defense held the Rockets to just 41 percent shooting from the field.
KNICKS 120, NETS 116
In New York, Carmelo Anthony scored 39 points for the second straight game as the New York Knicks rallied from a 16-point deficit for a win over New Jersey on Wednesday.
Anthony helped clinch the victory with the tiebreaking jump shot with 68 seconds left for the Knicks, who cut their magic number for securing a playoff berth to three.
Chauncey Billups added 33 points, six rebounds and six assists, while Amare Stoudemire scored 23 points for the Knicks, who have won two in a row after a six-game losing streak.
“This was a big game for us. We’ve got a lot to lose, they don’t. They just looked like they wanted it more than we did and we talked about that,” Billups said. “We came out immediately in the second half and just kind of turned the tide, momentum kind of went our way.”
Anthony scored just two points in the fourth quarter after a 20-point third, but it was the basket the Knicks needed the most.
Nets star Deron Williams finished with 22 points, eight rebounds and eight assists in his return from a six-game absence with a wrist injury.
“I thought he was off a little bit, but man, he made some big plays for us,” Nets coach Avery Johnson said. “Big shots, timely threes, good assists, but you could see there at the end, maybe he just ran out of gas a little bit.”
Anthony Morrow scored a season-high 30 points to lead New Jersey.
Brook Lopez added 26 points, while Kris Humphries finished with 15 points and 14 rebounds in the Nets’ loss.
Wednesday’s other results:
‧ Hawks 85, Magic 82
‧ Pacers 111, Pistons 101
‧ Bucks 104, Raptors 98
‧ Bobcats 98, Cavaliers 97
‧ Heat 123, Wizards 107
‧ Bulls 108, Timberwolves 91
‧ Grizzlies 110, Warriors 91
‧ Nuggets 104, Kings 90
‧ Hornets 95, Trail Blazers 91
‧ Thunder 116, Suns 98