PHILADELPHIA -- The 76ers found the fresh start at home they wanted.
Jason Richardson scored 16 points for the Sixers, who finally return home for a lengthy stint as they try to play their way back into the Eastern Conference playoff race. The Sixers opened a stretch of 12 home games in the next 13 and hope they can start to offset a miserable 2-6 road trip that stretched over the new year. They played 12 of 15 on the road dating back to Dec. 14.
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"No excuses, you've got to play all 82," coach Doug Collins said. "But when they're bunched like that, it's tough. Over the holidays. We spent Christmas on the road. We spent New Year's on the road. That's not easy. People forget they do have families and they have to give that up."
The road woes are one reason the Sixers are only 6-16 after a nice 10-6 start to the season. But it's turned into crunch time quickly for the Sixers as they as try and get back to .500 in the next month before the hopeful return of injured center Andrew Bynum.
"Every team goes through some adversity and we're going through some a little bit right now," coach Kevin McHale said. "We didn't win. We've got to find a way to win."
Led by 24 points from Holiday, the energetic Sixers built a 14-point lead in the third quarter, and found an offensive touch they've missed for most of the season. The Sixers entered 27th in the NBA in scoring (92.2 points) and regularly failed to even reach 90 points over the last six weeks.
Spencer Hawes hit a jumper early in the fourth to make it 91-82 -- the first time in six games the Sixers had scored more than 89 points. The Sixers didn't break 89 in either of their two games before a 103-99 win over the Lakers on Jan. 1.
The cushion almost wasn't enough once Harden tried to take over. Collins called Harden a legitimate MVP candidate and the Houston guard showed why in the fourth. He scored six straight points, including the play of the game, going between his legs in transition and drawing a foul on a bucket over three defenders. Harden's three-point play pulled Houston to 96-93.
For once, the stumbling Sixers didn't break in the waning minutes. Evan Turner, who scored 12 points, fed a long pass to Young for a big dunk on the break and a seven-point lead.
The Rockets missed eight straight shots from the field to lose control of their comeback. Harden fumbled the ball with a minute a left and Young was there to pick it up and fire to Holiday, who took one look over his shoulder and put in the easy layup for a 104-94 lead.
Holiday sank two free throws to hit the 30-point mark, falling three points shy of matching his career high set in November against Phoenix. He made 11 of 22 shots, sank all seven attempts from the free-throw line and had nine assists (with six turnovers).
"We needed it," Holiday said. "Going into this home stretch, getting the first one is huge. Home court is big. It's crucial. On the road, we didn't do what we wanted to do. We've got to come here and try and win at home."
Houston's cold stretch was uncharacteristic of a team that was second in the NBA in scoring (105.60 points) behind Oklahoma City. The Rockets only shot 30 percent from 3-point range (8 of 32) and had no answer to stop Holiday en route to their third straight loss.
"Teams are getting out to some good leads on us and we try and fight back," Harden said. "We get it back to a two- or three-point game and then run out of energy."
Collins has noted this team's missing energy to open second halves over the last month. Against Houston, they started slow, trailing by 11 before ending the quarter on a 20-6 run. Turner scored 12 points in the second quarter to help the Sixers take a 58-50 lead into halftime.
The Sixers held on to avoid a season-high losing streak and win for only the fourth time in 17 games.
- The Sixers are 15-0 with a lead at the start of the fourth quarter.
- The Sixers play Tuesday at Milwaukee for their only road game until Feb. 13.
- Holiday's great game could have been two points better. He had a jumper at the buzzer to end the third waved off after a review.
- Parsons and Harden combined to miss 13 of 16 3-point attempts.