The Los Angeles Clippers were without star forward Blake Griffin, the team’s best player.
They were without leading scorer Chris Paul and the team struggled offensively, and they lost three of their last four games.
The Clippers are still in a tough spot because they’re on a roll right now and their last game in Los Angeles was the most impressive one they’ve played.
But after they blew an early 3-2 lead in the final minutes against the Houston Rockets on Wednesday night, they’ll have to start thinking about what comes next.
They’ve won five of their past six, but the last four came against opponents with playoff hopes, and their current stretch is the longest of their franchise’s postseason history.
With the Clippers struggling to find their footing, they’re not looking at a quick turnaround for now.
Los Angeles is currently in fourth place in the West and two games back of the Houston Spurs.
The two-time defending champions have been outscored by a combined 55 points over the past two games.
They’re just 1-7 when leading after the first four quarters.
The win over Houston was the Clippers’ first since beating the San Antonio Spurs on Feb. 22.
They led by as many as 21 points in the first half and the game was tied at 72 after one period.
Griffin was ejected after the fourth quarter and the Clippers went on to lose 108-107.
He was assessed two technicals for his hit on Trevor Ariza and a technical for his instigating an altercation with an official in the third quarter.
The NBA has suspended Griffin for three games for the altercation with the official and he will be subject to a drug test.
He’ll be eligible to return to the court on Friday, though it remains unclear if he’ll play in this game.
The Rockets have also suspended Griffin.
He’s also subject to an undisclosed drug test, and he’s been fined $25,000 for his involvement.
Both incidents happened in Houston.
“That’s something we have to deal with and get over,” coach Kevin McHale said.
“It’s something that we have a process for, and I’m sure they’re working on it.
But I think that’s something for us to address.
I don’t think that we’ve had to address it.”
They have won three straight games and seven of their first eight, but it wasn’t enough.
“I think we’ve been a little bit inconsistent, a little tired and a little sluggish,” said center Chandler Parsons, who is averaging 14.5 points and 8.8 rebounds.
“We need to step up and do a better job offensively, defensively and just being more consistent.”
The Clippers also have lost four straight by an average of 21 points, including the season-high three in Houston, which was the longest such streak in NBA history.
The teams were evenly matched in the paint and the Rockets scored 27 first-half points, led by Harden’s 28.
Parsons also added 21 points.
The game ended with both teams shooting 35 percent from the field and 35 percent overall, but Houston went on a 14-0 run in the fourth to make it 80-81 with 2:25 left.
The next quarter saw the Rockets rally from a 23-point deficit, but Harden’s 3-pointer with 12 seconds left gave the Clippers a 66-65 lead with 6:37 left.
Houston had six points in a 1:21 span in the opening minute and then had nine in the second quarter on a 9-2 run to pull within two.
But the Clippers responded with five straight points from Harden, capped by a 3-point play in the lane by Parsons.
“When they got us up the floor, we weren’t able to finish,” said Parsons, whose 27 points were his most in any game this season.
“You can’t really defend him on a basketball court.
He does a lot of things.
He takes the ball off the dribble, he hits guys on the jump shot.
He gets into the paint, he gets to the rim, he makes some great plays.”
The Rockets led 47-32 at halftime and were led by a season-best 17 points by DeAndre Jordan, who had 20 points and 15 rebounds.
The Blazers were held to just 13 points, seven off their season high of 24.
Portland led by 12 points in one of its best periods of the season, outscoring the Clippers 38-25.
“They had their hands full.
They couldn’t do anything,” McHale told the team after the game.
“But I think they came out and executed a great game plan to win and to give us a little breather.
They played extremely well.”