Both teams look to improve their postseason chances after missing the playoffs last year when they meet Sunday at the Wachovia Center.
Houston (41-25) is fifth in the Western Conference and has won five of its last six games, including a 114-100 victory over the Toronto Raptors on Friday. Philadelphia (26-40) remains outside the playoff picture, a handful of games behind a pack of teams competing for the final two spots in the Eastern Conference.
In Friday’s Rockets win, Yao Ming, Tracy McGrady and Rafer Alston combined for 70 points against Toronto. Alston scored 23 points - 15 of them on 3-pointers - and added nine assists and eight rebounds.
“It was a big one,” said Alston, who is averaging 16.2 points and 8.0 assists in his last five matchups with the 76ers. “We needed to come in here and get a road victory. We need to keep on trying to make a good run at the third spot in the West.”
Having a healthy Yao will certainly help that cause. The center recorded 23 points and 12 rebounds Friday, for his third double-double in seven games since returning from a broken right leg. McGrady had 24 points, seven assists and five rebounds in the win and is averaging 28.8 points in his last 19 meetings with the Sixers.
McGrady scored 25 points in a 105-84 home win over Philadelphia on Jan. 29, while Juwan Howard added 20 points and 10 rebounds for the Rockets. Yao was injured and did not play.
Houston has won four straight trips to Philadelphia and eight of the last nine overall meetings between these teams, but will face a 76ers club playing well at home.
Since beginning the season 9-15 at the Wachovia Center, the Sixers have won eight of their last nine there, including an 89-88 win over the Utah Jazz on Friday on Kyle Korver’s winning basket with 5.1 seconds left.
“It was a big step for us to control the game the whole time and to hold our composure and then maintain and win the game,” said Sixers coach Maurice Cheeks, whose team is looking to complete a three-game homestand with a 2-1 record after losing 88-87 to Chicago on Wednesday. “They made a strong run and hit a seven-shot run, and we had to then match every shot they made.”
Andre Iguodala scored 23 points and grabbed nine rebounds while Samuel Dalembert (17) and Andre Miller (16) also scored in double figures for the Sixers. Iguodala leads Philadelphia with 18.4 points per game, but is averaging only 9.0 in five career meetings with the Rockets - his second-worst mark versus any opponent.
Korver has made 43 straight free throws, tying the NBA season high set by Kobe Bryant from Feb. 5-15.