If the Portland Trail Blazers don’t make the playoffs, they can blame their inconsistent play.
Portland continues its fight for the eighth and final playoff berth in the Western Conference when it hosts the Los Angeles Clippers.
Portland has been plagued by inconsistency all season, and that continued Monday night with a 93-85 overtime loss at home to the Houston Rockets.
The Blazers rallied from 17 points down midway through the third quarter to take an 81-75 lead late in the fourth, but the Rockets hit their next three shots to send it to overtime.
Blazers forward Zach Randolph missed a long jumper at the end of regulation, and in overtime, Portland missed seven of eight shots.
The defeat was the Blazers’ second in three contests after a stretch of five wins in six games got them back into the playoff race.
“It’s a heartbreaking loss,” Portland coach Maurice Cheeks said. “It looked like we had that game. But we couldn’t make the plays we wanted down the stretch.”
The setback dropped Portland behind both Denver and Utah in the conference.
“It’s going to be hard,” Portland forward Darius Miles said of the Blazers’ quest to make the playoffs. “This is the game we really wanted to win more than any game. This was one of the playoff contending teams.”
Los Angeles is not a playoff contending team, but it has beaten the Blazers in two of three meetings this season.
The Clippers have never won a season series from Portland, but when the franchise was the Buffalo Braves, it took three of four games against the Blazers in the 1973-74 season.
The Clippers, however, have lost nine straight in Portland since the 1999-00 season, and come into this contest banged up and with just two wins in their last 14 games.
Los Angeles dropped its fourth straight on Monday night, 102-80 at Denver.
The Clippers played without leading scorer Corey Maggette (knee), Chris Wilcox (Achilles’) and Marko Jaric (toe). Quentin Richardson was back after missing two games with back spasms, but had just six points on 1-for-11 shooting.
“Quentin Richardson tried to come back and was playing hurt,” Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said. “He probably wasn’t ready.”
STANDINGS (through March 22): Clippers - 6th place, 24 1/2 GB, Pacific Division. Trail Blazers - 3rd place, 16 GB, Pacific Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Clippers - Maggette, 20.6 ppg; Brand, 10.6 rpg; Jaric, 4.8 apg. Trail Blazers - Randolph, 20.2 ppg and 10.7 rpg; Stoudamire, 6.2 apg.
SEASON SERIES: Clippers, 2-1.
LAST MEETING: March 7; Clippers, 91-71. At Los Angeles, Brand had 21 points and 14 rebounds as he took advantage of the absence of Randolph, who was serving a league-imposed suspension for taking a swing at Utah’s Raja Bell in Portland’s previous game.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Clippers - 9-27 on the road; Trail Blazers - 22-13 at home.