Rockets-Raptors Preview

The Associated Press

The Houston Rockets haven't struggled this much since the very beginning of 2012, but another date with the Toronto Raptors may be just what they need to get back on track.

Houston seeks to avoid a season-high fifth straight defeat Wednesday night when it visits sputtering Toronto.

The Rockets (21-18) are coming off consecutive overtime losses, falling 105-103 to the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday and 97-92 at Boston on Tuesday.

Those defeats are part of a four-game skid that matches their worst this season. They also dropped four straight Jan. 3-7.

Tuesday's loss was also Houston's fourth straight on the road, and it came despite having six players score in double figures, led by 18 points each from Luis Scola and Kyle Lowry.

"We started doing the worst thing you can do on the road: Just start playing the score as opposed to playing the game," coach Kevin McHale said. "We lost our rhythm a little bit and then we just got too conservative trying to run the clock, trying to play perfect basketball."

Goran Dragic hit a jumper in the final seconds of regulation to send the game to overtime, but Scola said it just delayed the inevitable.

"The fact that we played the overtime was a bonus, was a present. We lost the game before that," Scola said.

Now the Rockets hope to end their skid against the last team they beat.

Houston shot only 38.7 percent but came away with an 88-85 win over Toronto on Feb. 28, as Lowry scored a game-high 26 points.

That contest marked the first of three times in the last five games the Raptors (12-26) have scored fewer than 90 points, and they're averaging 89.3 for the season after falling 92-88 to Orlando on Monday.

DeMar DeRozan scored 23 points for Toronto, which has lost 10 of 14. Each of those defeats has come by seven points or fewer.

"It's definitely frustrating, especially knowing how many games we had like that this season that we definitely could've won," DeRozan said. "We just got to close out teams."

Coach Dwane Casey lauded his team for another good performance despite falling short.

"I feel for our guys because they are putting themselves in a position to win," Casey said.

The major reason for that is how well Toronto has played defensively of late. Beginning with the matchup against Houston, the Raptors have held their last five opponents to 88.2 points per game on 40.8 percent shooting.

DeRozan has done his part offensively as Andrea Bargnani remains sidelined with a strained calf, averaging 20.8 points and shooting 49.2 percent over his last eight games.

He had a career-high 37 points at Houston on Dec. 31, 2010, but the Rockets won 114-105 and will now seek to win three in a row in the series for the first time since March 5, 2002-March 5, 2003.

They'll hope for another solid performance from Lowry, who is averaging 19.6 points over his last eight games. However, prior to last month's meeting with Toronto, Lowry had shot 36.2 percent and averaged 9.7 points in seven games versus the Raptors.