The Portland Trail Blazers are failing to take care of business just prior to the schedule becoming much tougher.
Losers of five of its past seven games, Portland will look to get back on the winning track when it hosts the woeful Houston Rockets on Sunday night.
Following the game with Houston, the Trail Blazers play seven of their next eight on the road, including match-ups with the Golden State Warriors, Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers.
Portland is on the outside when it comes to landing one of the Western Conference's four play-in berths. And it didn't help matters that the Trail Blazers were drilled 126-101 by the visiting Washington Wizards in their final game before the All-Star break and outclassed by the host Sacramento Kings 133-116 in their first game afterward.
The Trail Blazers were without four starters against the Kings. Two of them -- guard Damian Lillard and forward Jerami Grant -- were held out after an arduous travel experience due to a surprise winter snowstorm that blanketed Portland.
The Trail Blazers reportedly spent seven hours on an airplane in Portland on Wednesday afternoon and evening before the flight was canceled. They returned to the airport Thursday morning and faced another four-hour delay before being allowed to travel and arrived just a couple hours before tipoff in Sacramento.
"You've just got to get to the game," Portland coach Chauncey Billups said after the loss. "And I thought we did a good job. We don't make excuses. We don't do that. We don't believe in that. It just happens that way, sometimes. Circumstances happen. Mother Nature happens."
Guard Anfernee Simons (ankle) and center Jusuf Nurkic (calf) were the other starters who missed the contest. Both players will miss Sunday's game.
Nassir Little (season-high 26 points) and Cam Reddish (24) served as Portland's main offensive weapons against the Kings.
"I was happy to see Nassir get hot," Billups said. "He did a good job of picking the right spots to shoot."
Portland scored two double-digit victories over Houston earlier this season with Lillard missing one of the match-ups due to a calf injury and contributing 25 points and 10 assists in the other.
The Rockets have dropped eight straight games and 28 of their past 32.
Houston lost 116-101 to the host Golden State Warriors on Friday in their first game after the All-Star break.
"It was just the threes," Rockets coach Stephen Silas said after the setback. "They made 26. We made 11. That was the game."
In fact, Warriors star Klay Thompson (12) made more by himself than Houston did as a team.
"I feel like at first we were defending them well, but Klay got going," Rockets forward Kenyon Martin Jr. said. "He had a lot of catch-and-shoots. We didn't make him put the ball on the floor. So that was the difference with us starting the game well and it kind of getting out of control."
Golden State outscored Houston 40-23 in the second quarter to take a 17-point halftime advantage and led the rest of the way.
Martin led the Rockets with 22 points as one of five players to reach double digits.
Houston is also short-handed but is close to getting back guards Kevin Porter Jr. (foot) and Jalen Green (groin).
--Field Level Media