Philadelphia continues its push for the lead in the East and Houston tries to gain ground in the race for the final spot out West when the teams conclude their season series.
The Sixers trail the New Jersey Nets by a half-game for first place in the Atlantic Division and are two games behind the Detroit Pistons for the overall lead in the conference. The Atlantic and Central Division winners get the top two spots in the playoffs.
Philadelphia gained ground on New Jersey on Wednesday with its third straight win, 108-101 over the Chicago Bulls. The Nets lost 106-97 in New Orleans.
Allen Iverson had 24 points and tied a season high with 12 assists, Keith Van Horn scored 20 points and Kenny Thomas added 16 points and 14 rebounds as the Sixers improved to 20-5 since the All-Star break.
Iverson, having his best all-around season, is averaging 9.4 assists over his last five games.
“I’m just playing basketball, taking what defenses give me,” he said. “When guys are open, I try to get them the ball. I’m trying to play the right way.”
Houston’s playoff hopes took another hit on Wednesday night after a 106-99 loss at Milwaukee.
It was the Rockets’ second straight loss and fourth in five contests, dropping them 1 1/2 games behind Phoenix for the eighth and final playoff berth in the West.
Houston went ahead 33-20 early in the second quarter, but Milwaukee fought back and put away the game with a 9-0 run midway through the fourth.
“I don’t even want to talk about the playoffs,” said Houston guard Steve Francis, who had 17 points but committed six turnovers. “I just want to win one game … to see how it feels to win one game. We keep talking about the playoffs, but we can’t even win a game.”
STANDINGS: Rockets - 5th place, 18 GB, Midwest Division. 76ers - 2nd place, 1/2 GB, Atlantic Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Rockets - Francis, 21.5 ppg and 6.2 apg; Yao, 8.2 rpg. 76ers - Iverson, 27.6 ppg; Thomas, 7.6 rpg; Snow, 6.8 apg.
SEASON SERIES: Rockets, 1-0.
LAST MEETING: Dec. 7; Rockets, 97-72. At Houston, Francis scored eight of his 20 points in a decisive 22-6 fourth-quarter run, and the Rockets held Iverson to 11 points.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Rockets - 13-25 on the road; 76ers - 23-13 at home.
INJURIES: Rockets - C Jason Collier (foot); F Bostjan Nachbar (groin). 76ers - F Sam Clancy (knee); C Samuel Dalembert (knee); C Todd MacCulloch (feet); F Derrick Coleman (thigh).