The last time the Houston Rockets invaded the Wachovia Center, they barely broke a sweat, beating the Sixers by 124-74 on March 18.

Last night, things weren't so easy against a Sixers team that did more than its share to strike up the revenge meter for the 50-point loss.

The Sixers led by as many as 31 in the third quarter before holding off a late charge to defeat the Rockets, 100-88, at the Wachovia Center.

It was the third straight win for the Sixers (8-13), who last won three consecutive games on April 8, 10 and 11 against Atlanta, Indiana and Boston, respectively.

And don't think the Sixers did not remember last year.

"We talked about it at halftime for a second, just a quick second," said point guard Andre Miller, who had 17 points and 12 assists.

After halftime, the Sixers pulled away from a 14-point lead to an 80-49 advantage with 4 minutes, 25 seconds left in the third quarter after Willie Green hit two free throws.

Actually, last year's 50-point massacre was talked about well before halftime.

"We talked about it before we went out and played," said Green, who had 20 points and has averaged 17.3 over the last three games. "We knew what they did to us last year, and we wanted to go out and play well."

Things are going so well for the Sixers that one criticism is that they have to learn how to play better with a 31-point lead.

Even though Tracy McGrady left the game for good in the third quarter with a sprained right ankle, Houston made a valiant comeback.

The Rockets got to within 94-84 with 1:59 left, but they ran out of gas and time.

"You have to learn to play with those type of leads," Sixers coach Maurice Cheeks said. "I hope we have a lot of those."

There was a noticeable buzz at the Wachovia Center. Maybe it was the presence of Eagles running back Brian Westbrook that inspired the Sixers.

More likely, it was a reenergized team that has benefited from Cheeks' new rotation.

The winning streak began after Cheeks expanded what had been an eight-man rotation. Last night, 11 Sixers played in the first half.

Another major difference has been the play of Miller, who reached double figures in assists for the fourth straight game. In the last four games, he has averaged 15.8 points, 11.3 assists and 3 turnovers.

"He is the person we need most on the team," said Andre Iguodala, who scored 16 points. "He is really attacking the basket, running the offense, and making it easier for everybody."

Miller insists he isn't playing any differently.

"The main thing is that guys are knocking down shots, and that is opening up the game for me," Miller said.

It also does wonders for the Sixers. Earlier in the season, they struggled to hit shots from the perimeter. Now those shots are going in.

A prime example is Kyle Korver, who had been 1 for 15 from beyond the arc in four games before this winning streak. In the last three games, he has shot 8 for 11 from three-point range.

Houston (11-11) has sputtered since opening the season 6-1.

"They were quicker in every area of the game," Houston coach Rick Adelman said of the Sixers. "We made a ton of mental mistakes defensively."

The Rockets also made 23 turnovers, compared with 13 for the Sixers.

With plenty of weak-side help, the Sixers' Samuel Dalembert did a good job on 7-foot-6 Yao Ming, who was limited to 12 points (on 3-for-11 shooting) and nine rebounds. Dalembert finished with 8 points, 13 rebounds, 2 blocked shots, and some long-awaited revenge.

Watch a slide show from

the 76ers-Rockets game at http://go.philly.com./photos.EndText

Contact staff writer Marc Narducci at 856-779-3225 or mnarducci@phillynews.com.