The suddenly fading Houston Rockets will try to snap a five-game losing streak and strengthen their grip on seventh place in the Western Conference playoff race when they visit the lowly Los Angeles Clippers.
Houston was 13 games over .500 after beating Memphis, 88-80, on March 13, but the Rockets have lost nine of their last 12, including Tuesday’s 97-90 loss to Golden State.
“We’re not playing to win,” said Houston guard Cuttino Mobley. “We’re playing not to lose to save our spot. I don’t know what it is: enthusiasm, urgency, a will to win or not to win.”
Nine years removed from their last NBA championship, the Rockets couldn’t muster the effort to beat a Warriors team that has missed the playoffs the past 10 years.
Yao Ming scored 15 points, but didn’t take advantage in the paint as Warriors’ starting center Erick Dampier missed his third straight game. The 7-foot-6 Yao was 6-of-14 from the field with eight rebounds before fouling out with 1:03 to play.
“When we start playing better, we’ll get better results,” said Houston coach Jeff Van Gundy. “Nothing is good enough right now.”
Houston will try for a better effort against the Clippers, who have dropped 11 straight games and 19 of their last 21, including Sunday’s 97-92 loss to Utah.
Coach Mike Dunleavy was ejected for the second time in four games when he got two technical fouls from referee Tony Brothers with 5:23 in the third quarter, shortly after Brand went to the bench with his fourth foul.
“That was definitely a badly officiated game,” Brand said. “Some of the calls were terrible. Coach was trying to get us some calls and get us respect out there, and he got tossed. It’s very frustrating.”
The Clippers actually held a 40-34 halftime lead, but couldn’t maintain the effort in the second half.
“It was just a poor performance by us in the second half,” Dunleavy said. “They came out more aggressive than we did and they killed us on the offensive glass. We didn’t do a good job defensively, as far as applying pressure.”
Los Angeles, which was outrebounded 40-25 by Utah, has lost five straight meetings with Houston.