Keep your eye on the 76ers' inside rotation.
Starting center Spencer Hawes has gone from a late-game bench ornament to quite effective in the game's final minutes. At the end of Monday night's victory over the Chicago Bulls, Hawes nailed a trio of important jump shots and scored 14 points, his fourth consecutive game in double-digit scoring.
"You always want to be in down the stretch, and you always have faith you can do it," Hawes said before Wednesday's 108-97 victory against the Houston Rockets. "But actually going out and being in that position, it's gratifying."
Sixers coach Doug Collins credited assistant coach Brian James with making Hawes' jumper smoother and quicker. Collins said Hawes had the green light to take jump shots.
Asked whether Hawes would continue receiving late-game playing time, Collins said it would all depend on matchups.
"It's really not about trust as much as size," Collins said. "Like with Chicago the other night . . . I needed bigger and stronger guys. . . . I wish I could get to a point where I could play Thad out there as a three."
Considering that rotation - Thaddeus Young at small forward, Elton Brand at power forward, Hawes at center - Collins seemed to seize onto something.
"It might be something I start playing around with here a little bit to see if we could do something like that, because that size really helps you at the end of the game," Collins said.
Hawes finished with 12 points and seven rebounds against the Rockets.
Entering the Rockets game, Sixers reserve guard Lou Williams had made only three of his previous 23 shots. Williams shot 1 for 12 in Sunday's loss to the Sacramento Kings and 2 for 11 on Monday.
"I thought in Chicago he sort of hesitated on a couple of shots," Collins said. "I said, 'I don't care if you've missed 11 in a row, we count on you taking that shot.' "
Williams bounced back against Houston, making 6 of 12 shots and scoring 15 points.
The Rockets entered Wednesday's game only two games out of the Western Conference's final playoff spot. In its push for the postseason, Houston entered the night with a 7-3 mark in its previous 10 games.
Former Villanova star Kyle Lowry started at guard for the Rockets. He entered the contest averaging 13.4 points and 6.7 assists a game. Lowry led Houston with 19 points against the Sixers.
- Kate Fagan