Houston, TX (SportsNetwork.com) - The Philadelphia 76ers will presumably win a game this season, but the Houston Rockets made sure they were not their first victim by surviving the NBA's only winless club in an 88-87 thriller Friday.
James Harden made a go-ahead layup with 9.0 seconds remaining, and Michael Carter-Williams missed a potential game-winner at the buzzer to end a surprisingly tight contest.
"It was tough for all of us," said Harden. "Last year, we probably would have lost this game. This year, we focus on our defense."
The embattled Sixers, whose overt rebuilding strategy has produced a bevy of detractors, went into Toyota Center and stood toe-to-toe with a one-loss Houston club following an embarrassing 123-70 loss in Dallas the night before.
They led 87-84 after a Tony Wroten 3-pointer and had the ball with under 40 seconds to play, but turnovers on consecutive possessions -- their 25th and 26th of the night -- doomed their chances for an upset.
Harden made two free throws to pull the Rockets within one, 87-86, then used a high screen from Dwight Howard to drive for the eventual winning basket.
Carter-Williams' miss from just above the right elbow sent the Sixers to 0-9.
"I'm proud of how the guys played," said Carter-Williams. "Everyone contributed. Everyone made big plays down the stretch."
Harden finished with 35 points, and Howard totaled 21 points, 16 rebounds and seven blocks for Houston, which improved to 8-1.
Wroten paced the Sixes with 19 points and eight assists.
Saying Philadelphia's first-half performance was an improvement from Thursday's showing would be a gross understatement.
A day after trailing Dallas by 44 points (73-29) at halftime, the Sixers were even with the Rockets, 47-47, at the break. They led by as many as 13, but Isaiah Canaan ignited the hosts with three 3-pointers in the second quarter.
Only Howard and Harden scored for the Rockets in the third, chipping in eight points apiece, and Houston trailed 68-63 heading into the fourth.
The Sixers went nearly five minutes without hitting a field goal and were staring at a 79-72 deficit after Trevor Ariza nailed a 3-pointer with 4:44 remaining.
Carter-Williams ended the drought with a 3-pointer to start a 9-2 run that evened things again.
The tight contest featured 16 ties and 16 lead changes.
The Rockets have won 18 straight home games against Eastern Conference opponents ... The Rockets' record streak of making 10 of more 3-pointers to start a season came to an end, as they made just 7-of-34 ... Houston shot 19 more free throws (37-18) ... Henry Sims and Carter-Williams scored 14 and 13 points, respectively, for Philadelphia.