Rockets-Hornets Preview

The Associated Press

The Houston Rockets have lost their grip on one of the final playoff berths in the Western Conference. Their play against the New Orleans Hornets might determine whether they can regain their spot.

The Rockets will play the first of two games against the Hornets over the season's final week Thursday night in New Orleans.

A season high-tying five consecutive defeats have dropped Houston (32-30) from sixth in the West to a tie for ninth, and subpar defensive efforts have played a part in that skid. A 117-110 loss in Dallas on Wednesday marked the fifth straight time the Rockets allowed an opponent to top the century mark.

Houston made a season-high 12 3-pointers and shot 50 percent, but the Mavericks sank 11 of their own while shooting 51.9 percent.

"We could use some help," forward Chandler Parsons said. "We have to stay together, we can't get our heads down. As crazy as it sounds, it's not over yet."

The Rockets will try to get their bid for a first playoff berth since 2008-09 back on track during a closing stretch that includes three games against sub-.500 teams.

Houston, who trail eighth-place Utah by one-half game, will face New Orleans again in the regular-season finale next Thursday at the Toyota Center. They'll also play a home game against a short-handed Golden State squad Saturday and visit Miami the next day.

"We still believe in our chances," guard Goran Dragic said. "Ten days ago, we were really confident, but we've been playing bad. Four games left, win those, we have a chance."

The Hornets (19-43) are one of those sub-.500 teams, and they are coming off a 103-91 loss to Memphis on Wednesday night that ended a season-high four-game win streak.

Jerome Dyson had a team-best 24 points during his fifth NBA game, but the Hornets couldn't recover after being outscored 37-12 in the third quarter.

"The third quarter got away in a hurry," coach Monty Williams said. "We didn't have the execution we needed, and that is part of the growth that we need to see from our young guys.

"When we started to get behind, I looked at the lineup and realized it was all youth. We didn't have any veterans or experience to slow the game down."

The Rockets will try to avoid their longest skid since dropping six straight to bridge the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons by earning their third win in four games against New Orleans. Houston, though, needed to rally in overtime for a 90-88 victory Jan. 19.

The Rockets led by 12 entering the fourth quarter of that game but matched a franchise low by scoring seven points during the period. They trailed by five with 1:44 remaining in the extra session before tallying seven straight points.

Samuel Dalembert had five of those, including the tiebreaking dunk with 11 seconds left, and Kevin Martin scored 27 of his team-best 32 points in the first half.

Martin, however, hasn't played since March 11 because of a shoulder injury. Dragic, though, has picked up the slack by averaging 20.5 points in his last 11 games.

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