Rockets beat 76ers for 22nd time in past 26 meetings

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Jeff Van Gundy has an easy time explaining Houston's recent success.

"When we have Yao [Ming] and Tracy [McGrady], we're a good team. It's pretty simple," Van Gundy said.

Houston's coach might want to add a stubborn defense to go along with that 1-2 scoring punch.

Houston held Philadelphia without a field goal for more than a 15-minute span when the Sixers missed 19 straight shots in the second half of the Rockets' 87-81 victory Monday night.

"That was probably part defense and probably partly them missing shots they can make," Van Gundy said.

Only free throws kept the Sixers in this one after an incredible stretch of offensive ineptness. They did not score from 4:41 in the third to 1:05 in the fourth -- 15:36 overall -- and nearly became the second team in the last week to go without a field goal in the fourth quarter after the Kings went 0-for-20 against Utah.

The Sixers also committed 24 turnovers and shot 33 percent from the field.

"We couldn't put the ball in the basket," Allen Iverson said.

What an understatement.

The Sixers missed 14 straight shots in the fourth quarter before Iverson finally scored on a three-point play. Andre Iguodala followed with a 3 that made it 85-79, and Iverson added another basket, giving the Sixers three baskets in the quarter, but it was too late.

"We got stops when we needed them," said Rafer Alston, who scored 19 points. "It wasn't always pretty, but we'll take it for sure."

Yao scored 27 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, and McGrady had 13 for the Rockets, who won their fourth straight game. Yao's 27 are the most points he has scored since returning five games ago after a 21-game layoff after toe surgery, but it was on an 9-for-21 effort.

No team gives the Sixers fits like Houston, and it was no different this time. The Rockets beat Philadelphia for the seventh straight time, the 11th time in 13 games in Philadelphia, and the 22nd time in 26 meetings overall.

Iverson scored 32 points and went 20-for-24 from the line for the Sixers. Chris Webber had 18 points and 15 rebounds, and Samuel Dalembert grabbed 17 rebounds. The Sixers went 32-for-37 on free throws; the Rockets 17-for-23.

"I can't see that happening again," Webber said of the scoring drought. "The turnovers killed us, too. That's really not us. It was really out of character offensively tonight [Monday]. That, we know, won't stay the same."

Because of all the fouls, Houston had trouble pulling away in this one, even with eight more field goals overall and five more 3-pointers.

Alston finally pushed the lead to double digits when he hit a 3 midway through the fourth quarter, then added a jumper that made it 81-69. When Dalembert sank two free throws, it cut the lead to 83-72 and gave the Sixers their 18th straight point without a basket since Iguodala scored on a reverse layup late in the third.

Before the scoring slump, Iverson keyed a 13-2 run in the third that helped the Sixers slice a 16-point deficit down to 66-63 at the end of the quarter.

Iverson had one of the defensive plays of Philadelphia's season to keep the rally going. Luther Head seemed poised to convert a turnover into a fast break layup when a streaking Iverson came from behind and knocked the ball away.

Iverson fell out of bounds, the ball stayed in play, David Wesley grabbed it and was about to go for a layup when the fiery guard came out of nowhere and stripped the ball loose to prevent what could have been two easy scoring opportunities.

The Sixers went 13-for-15 from the line of the quarter where they scored all but 14 of their points.

Game notes
The Hornets extended the deadline to Tuesday at noon to complete the deal to bring center Steven Hunter from the 76ers. ... Iverson moved into second place on the Sixers' career list for free
throws made with 4,597. Dolph Schayes is still more than 2,000 free throws ahead of Iverson. ... Sixers coach Maurice Cheeks had an explanation for why Iverson and McGrady outperformed Yao in jersey sales in China. "A lot of people from over here moved to China," he said, laughing. ... The Sixers' nine points in the second were a low for any quarter.