- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 5, 2011

PHILADELPHIA | Lou Williams found one way to help the 76ers avoid a third overtime loss to the Wizards.

Take over in the fourth quarter.

Williams scored 12 of his 26 points in the fourth, Jrue Holiday also had 26, and the Philadelphia 76ers returned from their longest road trip of the season to beat the Washington Wizards 109-97 on Wednesday night.

Elton Brand added 17 points to help the Sixers avoid the embarrassment of becoming the first home team to lose to the Wizards this season. Washington is 0-17 on the road.

If any team was susceptible to losing to the Wizards, it was the Sixers. They lost the first two games of the season series at Washington in overtime by a combined three points.

“We just decided, it’s not happening,” Williams said. “Guys really rallied and said, ‘Yo, it’s still close. Let’s go ahead, pull away and win this thing.’ We gave them two games and didn’t want to do it again.”

This one was nearly as tight until Holiday and Williams scored some breathing-room baskets in the fourth to help the Sixers continue their push for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Brand smiled when he greeted his agent, David Falk, and some friends outside the locker room with a “finally got one.”

“We’re just starting to come together,” Williams said.

The Sixers played their first home game since a Dec. 17 loss to the Lakers. They hit the road and went 3-5 on the swing, a moderate success for a team that was one of the worst in the NBA last season.

It’s a new year, new outlook under new coach Doug Collins.

Yes, the Sixers are still chasing .500, but in the East, that’s enough to have a playoff berth in sight.

Collins said before the game he has addressed the playoffs with the Sixers — and how this month is the time to make a move. Counting the Wizards game, the Sixers play five of six at home.

This was the kind of game they couldn’t afford to lose if they want to play meaningful games in April.

For three quarters, it looked as though it could happen.

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