PHILADELPHIA -- The 76ers' chances of winning when they score less than 80 points are usually pretty slim. They're even slimmer when it happens against the best team in the league.
But Philadelphia played perhaps its best defensive game of the season and wound up with a confidence-building victory as Jrue Holiday scored 27 points to lead the Sixers to a 77-71 victory over the league-leading San Antonio Spurs on Friday night.
Spencer Hawes added 13 points and Elton Brand tied his season high with 17 rebounds for the Sixers, who defeated the Spurs for the fourth consecutive season in Philadelphia. The Sixers hadn't won a game when scoring less than 80 points since a 78-76 win at Detroit Dec. 9, 2003. And the Spurs were 12-0 when holding opponents below 90 points this season.
"Defense won us this game," Brand said. "We got hands in their faces and made them take difficult shots. Great win for us. It was due to defense. The Spurs are known for winning games like this. We stuck with it defensively and got it done."
Despite shooting poorly all night, the Sixers were able to fend off the Spurs and remain in the seventh spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race. The Sixers have won eight of their last 11 overall.
"What an incredible display by our guys defensively," Sixers coach Doug Collins said. "I've never been more proud of them. That was a grind-it-out type of game."
Tim Duncan had 16 points and 13 rebounds, while Antonio McDyess added 11 points and 11 rebounds for the Spurs, who had their four-game winning streak snapped. Gary Neal scored 11 points and DeJuan Blair had 14 rebounds for San Antonio, which was trying to become the sixth team in NBA history to begin 45-8 or better and the first since the 1996-97 champion Chicago Bulls.
The Spurs shot just 33 percent from the field (27 for 81), including 3 for 17 from 3-point range.
"I think it set offensive basketball back a decade or so," San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said.
The Spurs had been 4-1 on their season-high nine-game road trip dubbed the "Rodeo Road Trip," when the rodeo takes place at the AT&T Center. The trip takes 17 days and will take the Spurs on 8,187 total miles in the air.
"Down the stretch, we made a couple of turnovers and missed some shots," Popovich said.
After Duncan's layup got the Spurs within 73-71 with 2:06 remaining, neither team was able to convert on its next possession with Manu Ginobili missing a wide-open 3-pointer from the top of the key.
San Antonio had another chance to tie it, but Ginobili took an off-balance jumper from 20 feet which was contested by Andre Iguodala.
"Andre was great on the defensive end," Brand said. "He was so active, all over the place."
Holiday knocked down a pair of free throws with 19.9 seconds left to give the Sixers a 75-71 advantage. Holiday earlier hit a long 3-pointer to give the Sixers a 71-67 lead with 4:43 left.
"Holiday was the difference-maker in the game," Spurs forward Richard Jefferson said. "When he was open, he was able to knock down shots."
But Duncan responded on San Antonio's next possession with a runner in the lane to close the gap to 71-69.
Tony Parker shot just 3 for 10, while Ginobili was 2 for 10, and 0 for 5 from beyond the arc.
The Spurs closed the first half with a 12-6 spurt to tie the game at 46. ... Popovich has the most tenure among NBA coaches with the resignation of Utah's Jerry Sloan on Thursday. Popovich, in his 15th season, has 780 career wins. ... Spurs F Tiago Splitter was inactive with a strained left hamstring. ... Philadelphia begins a three-game road trip Saturday at Minnesota before heading to Memphis and Houston. ... The Sixers donned red jerseys to support heart awareness.