The All-Star break may be coming at the right time for the struggling and fatigued Philadelphia 76ers.
The Atlantic Division leaders attempt to enter the break by snapping their longest losing streak of the season and adding to their recent success against the host Houston Rockets on Wednesday night.
Philadelphia (20-13) has lost four in a row, largely due to a considerable drop in offensive production. The 76ers have averaged 82.3 points and shot 39.3 percent during their skid after averaging 95.9 points over their first 29 games.
"We're just not competing at our highest level, and we're getting beat," guard Louis Williams said. "Whether you want to blame it on injuries or any of that, we're just not playing at our highest level. We haven't had everybody on the same page in these last four games and we've got to get back to that."
They had one of their worst offensive performances of the season Tuesday, an 89-76 loss in Memphis that included a 10-point first quarter.
Despite that, Philadelphia trailed by just five at halftime but could never take command, due in part to giving up 24 points off turnovers.
"Guys are starting a little tired, a little fatigued. The good thing is we have a break around the corner," forward Thaddeus Young said. "We want to end the stretch of tough games with a win before we go into the (All-Star break)."
Judging by recent results against Houston, the 76ers could have a good chance at that victory. Philadelphia, which leads New York and Boston by four games atop the Atlantic, has won seven of its last eight meetings with the Rockets (19-14) overall, and four in a row at the Toyota Center.
Houston is seeking its third straight victory after a 1-3 slump. The Rockets have played their best at home under first-year coach Kevin McHale, going 13-4.
"We've showed some toughness, showed some fight," McHale said. "We've got to keep improving. We've got to get better defensively. We've got to get better spacing on offense. We've got to get better every day that we're together."
Kyle Lowry's 24 points, including two free throws with six seconds left, helped Houston prevail 97-93 against visiting Memphis on Monday.
Lowry scored a career-high 36 points and shot 15 of 18 at home against Philadelphia last February, but the Rockets fell 114-105.
Jrue Holiday had 20 points in that contest to lead seven 76ers in double figures. One of those players, forward Elton Brand, was scratched before Tuesday's game because of a sprained right thumb.
Holiday, who has reached 20 points only six times this season but has done so in each of the last two games, averaged a team-best 22.0 against Houston in 2010-11 while shooting 69.6 percent.
Young shot 60.6 percent and totaled 41 points in last season's two game series.
Lowry made 11 of 17 3-point attempts against the 76ers in 2010-11.
- Houston Rockets
- Philadelphia 76ers