No moment in the 76ers' game last night better exemplified the result than the final seconds of the first half, when rookie Jrue Holiday took his eyes off a pass.

The ball went through Holiday's hands, costing the Sixers a bucket at the buzzer.

The ball wasn't all that slipped through the Sixers' fingers. So did the game.

The Sixers fell to the Houston Rockets, 96-91, at the Wachovia Center. They have lost 12 straight games, their longest losing streak since Nov. 25 to Dec. 20, 2006. At the end of that streak, the Sixers traded Allen Iverson. During this one, they re-signed him.

The streak has reached 23 days. The Sixers have not won since beating Charlotte on Nov. 18.

Carl Landry scored 20 points to lead the Rockets.

Houston point guard Aaron Brooks, who finished with 19 points, made a spinning, stumbling 18-footer to extend both a lead and the Sixers' misery, giving his team a 96-91 advantage with 8.8 seconds remaining.

Although the final score was not necessarily indicative of a game that should have been won, anyone watching knew the Sixers were one small push from breaking the Rockets in the beginning and a few better choices from winning at the end.

With 2 minutes, 44 seconds remaining in the first quarter, the Sixers were ahead, 27-10. Houston looked inside out, its shots spinning off the rim, its defense with more holes than a golf course.

"You get a 17-point lead, that's when you start playing harder," said Iverson, who scored 12 points in the fourth quarter and finished with 20.

"As a young team," he said, "guys have to realize when you get a team down like that and not really ready to play - I always tell them, 'If they're not ready to play, then blow them out of the gym.'

"We let them back into the game, and once they got back into the game, it went uphill for them and downhill for us."

From that first-quarter moment, the Rockets outscored the Sixers by 66-37. Houston took a 76-64 lead into the fourth quarter.

"We're not going to play a perfect game," Sixers coach Eddie Jordan said. "But we did play hard and we did play smart, for the most part."

The smartness might have come into question in the game's final 2:15.

Although Andre Iguodala had 24 points and Iverson his 20, while the game was being decided, only one of five shots went to those guys: a made pull-up jumper by Iverson with 1:06 remaining.

In that time, reserve Willie Green missed 22-foot and 19-foot jumpers. He finished 1 for 7.

Another shot went to Elton Brand, who finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds. The remaining shot went to Samuel Dalembert, who grabbed 14 rebounds and scored seven points.

"I didn't have it from outside," said Green, whose bucket accounted for a third of the team's bench contribution.

Down the stretch, Jordan kept Green on the floor instead of Thaddeus Young, who scored 15 points on 7-for-11 shooting. "Willie was playing well," Jordan said.

"Willie is a jump shooter and Elton is on the elbow; I was OK with those shots," Jordan said. "Do I want a better shot? I always want a better, cleaner, in-rhythm shot."

After the loss, Iverson said it best:

"That was a game we gave away."