James Harden and the Houston Rockets are on the verge of their longest losing streak of the season, but they should like their chances of avoiding it with the Detroit Pistons coming to town.
Coming off consecutive defeats, Houston goes for a ninth straight home victory over the last-place Pistons on Friday night.
The Rockets (41-20) had won five in a row before falling 104-96 at Atlanta on Tuesday as Harden served a one-game suspension for kicking Cleveland’s LeBron James in the groin Sunday.
They hosted Memphis on Wednesday and lost 102-100, erasing a 12-point deficit late in the fourth quarter before Harden didn’t get the call after appearing to draw a foul while driving to the basket with a chance to take the lead in the closing seconds.
"It’s frustrating when you fight so hard to come back and you have an opportunity to win the game," said Harden, who finished with 18 points and 13 assists. "Tough two games, but that’s what it’s about – adversity. You’ve got to fight through it, you’ve got to find a way to be great."
Harden shot 2 of 2 from the foul line as the Rockets finished 5 of 5, matching a season low for attempts. Houston is 31-4 when Harden converts at least seven free throws, and he leads the NBA with 8.2 made per game.
The Rockets, who have suffered back-to-back losses five times this season, haven’t dropped three in a row since March 29-April 2.
They’ve won 18 of the last 21 visits from the Pistons (23-37) and took seven straight overall matchups by an average of 12.4 points before a 114-101 loss Jan. 31.
Detroit’s Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had a season-high 28 points that night while Harden scored 26. Josh Smith finished with seven points on 3-of-11 shooting in his first matchup against the Pistons since they cut him Dec. 22.
Detroit is trying to avoid a winless three-game road trip and fifth consecutive loss after falling 88-85 to New Orleans on Wednesday. Recently acquired Reggie Jackson had 14 points and 11 assists but missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer with 4 seconds remaining.
The Pistons went 2 of 14 from beyond the arc, and they’re shooting 28.4 percent from long distance during the four-game skid.
"We’re not making any 3s," said coach Stan Van Gundy, whose team hasn’t lost five straight since a season-worst 13-game skid Nov. 15-Dec. 9. "Offensively right now, it’s just a real struggle, but when you turn it over 19 times, you’re taking away a lot of possessions."
Detroit has also shot 28.4 percent from 3-point range in dropping seven of eight on the road, a stretch during which it’s averaged 92.8 points.
Caldwell-Pope has totaled 25 points in the last five away from home while shooting 28.9 percent, including 3 of 15 from long distance.
The Pistons are 8-16 against the Western Conference, while Houston has won eight straight home games against the East by an average of 14.0 points.