- 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.

Nick Young scored 21 points for the Wizards, and John Wall had 18 points and tied a career high with 14 assists. Rashard Lewis scored 18 and Andray Blatche 17.

The Wizards ended the first half on a 20-9 run to take a 52-50 lead into the break.

Williams and Holiday took it from there.

An offensive spark off the bench, Williams delivered clutch shots down the stretch and took over as the go-to shooter with Andre Iguodala out for the fifth straight game with Achilles’ tendinitis.

Williams buried a long fadeaway over Kirk Hinrich, who scored 13 points, at the buzzer to send the Sixers into the fourth with a 76-75 lead.

“Closed my eyes and threw it up there and it went in,” Williams said.

Young put the Wizards up 81-80 early in the fourth with a 3-pointer and it appeared the road losing streak might be coming to an end.

Williams, who was 7 for 10 from the field and 10 of 11 at the free throw line, only extended the misery. Thaddeus Young found a hole and poked the ball through a double-team to Williams for a 3-pointer that gave the Sixers an 83-81 lead. Holiday made a sweet spin move around Young and was fouled on a basket, sank the free throw and that was enough to help the Sixers start to pull away.

“We fell behind and lost some of our confidence,” Wizards coach Flip Saunders said. “We didn’t make plays, we didn’t make shots. Their guards got in the paint and destroyed us.”

Led by Williams, the Sixers went 10 for 14 in the fourth. Williams made both of their 3-point attempts.

“They had the momentum and they ran with it,” Nick Young said.

Andres Nocioni had 10 points and 10 rebounds for the Sixers, who shot a season-high 57 percent.

Notes: Collins skipped shootaround because of flu and cold symptoms and slept most of the afternoon before returning for the game. … The Sixers are 11-8 since starting the season 3-13. … Hinrich played with goggles for the first time after he was poked in the eye. He had them cleaned and needed them adjusted throughout the game. … The Sixers’ nine home wins are three shy of last season’s total. … Iguodala said he hopes to return next week.


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