PHILADELPHIA -- The 76ers' freefall to the bottom of the Eastern Conference was short-lived. A year after one of their worst seasons in more than a decade, Andre Iguodala, Elton Brand and the Sixers are a win away from the playoffs.
The Sixers can clinch a playoff spot with one more victory or one more loss by the Charlotte Bobcats. The Sixers can secure a spot at home Friday vs. New Jersey; Charlotte plays at Orlando the same night.
Iguodala had 10 assists and the Sixers had 30 of them on 46 baskets. He scored nine points and grabbed eight rebounds in another game where he found ways to contribute even as he's bothered by various knee and hamstring injuries.
Sixers coach Doug Collins said Iguodala will need two months of rest before he is completely recovered. It's a break Iguodala hope doesn't start for a few more weeks -- or months.
"If I feel like I can play, if I feel like can contribute in any way, I'll go out there and play," Iguodala said. "I'm just trying to be unselfish. Obviously, it takes away from my aggression at times."
The Sixers won only 27 games last year and fired coach Eddie Jordan after one season. Collins was hired out of the TNT broadcast booth and, after a rough adjustment, has the Sixers among the top teams in the NBA over the last few months.
"One step closer, 39 wins now, which is fabulous," Collins said.
The Rockets cruised in a 112-87 win over New Jersey on Tuesday night, moving them within two games of eighth-place Memphis in the West, but their playoff push took a hit down I-95.
"We've got to win every game from here on out, it's as simple as that," Lowry said. "It's pretty much do-or-die right now."
Young gave the Sixers a serious scare after a hard fall in Monday's 97-85 win at Chicago. Collins thought Young blew out his knee, but it was a strained groin, not severe enough to keep him out of the lineup -- or affect his shooting. Young made 11 of 19 shots, all around the basket, and fell a rebound shy of a double-double.
Young scored the first two baskets during a decisive 10-2 spurt early in the fourth. His short hook late in the game put the Sixers up 102-90 and secured their second straight victory against a team with a winning record.
The Rockets made 21 of 22 free throws; the 76ers 11 of 12.
The Sixers kept pace with Houston's potent offense in the first half, then kept knocking shots down in the second as Houston faded in the fourth.
The Sixers have no All-Stars and their four-month rise in the Eastern Conference standings from a 3-13 start has been all about teamwork in the starting five and major contributions off the bench. Both were on display against Houston.
In the first quarter, the Sixers had 12 assists on 14 baskets. Young continued his push for recognition as one of the league's top sixth men, and reserve guard Lou Williams scored 15 points.
"We have a lot of guys who can come off the bench and score at will," Young said. "We don't need guys to come in and score 20."
The Sixers are so balanced that they have six players averaging double-digits in scoring. But leading scorer Elton Brand (14.8 entering Wednesday) is tied for only 52nd in the league.
The Rockets will need wins and some help to make the playoffs. Lowry, the former Villanova standout who was cheered in pregame introductions, is trying to lead them there.
Lowry has stopped playing as a drive-only guard and worked to become more of a deep-ball threat. Rockets coach Rick Adelman called Lowry the team leader and "kind of the reason we turned this thing around."
He showed a little bit of both in his return home. He hit his first three 3-point attempts and a running jumper to end the first half that put the Rockets up 55-52.
Lowry also showed his grit on a high-flying act over Houston's bench as he went for a loose ball and nearly tumbled into the stands.
Lowry's next 3 in the third stretched Houston's lead to 76-70. The Sixers rallied and Williams' 3 at the end of the quarter gave them an 84-82 lead.
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