Just as the schedule gets harder, the Portland Trail Blazers are failing to handle business.
Portland, which has lost five of its last seven games, will host the pathetic Houston Rockets on Sunday to try to get back on track.
The Trail Blazers will play seven of their next eight games on the road, including games against the Golden State Warriors, Boston Celtics, and Philadelphia 76ers, following their matchup with Houston.
When it comes to securing one of the four play-in berths available in the Western Conference, Portland is outside the running. The Trail Blazers were also hammered 126-101 by the visiting Washington Wizards in their final game before the All-Star break, and the host Sacramento Kings outclassed them 133-116 in their first game after the break.
Against the Kings, the Trail Blazers were without four starters. Due to a surprise winter snowstorm that blanketed Portland, two of them — guard Damian Lillard and forward Jerami Grant — were held out after an exhausting travel experience.
Before the flight was canceled, the Trail Blazers reportedly spent seven hours in Portland on Wednesday afternoon and evening. They returned to the airport on Thursday morning, endured a further four-hour delay before being permitted to travel, and made it to Sacramento just a few hours before kickoff.
Jusuf Nurkic, a center, and guard Anfernee Simons, a guard, both suffered injuries to their ankles and missed the game. Sunday’s match will be missed by both players.
Portland’s primary offensive weapons against the Kings were Nassir Little, who scored a season-high 26 points, and Cam Reddish, who scored 24 points.
This season, Portland defeated Houston twice by double digits, with Lillard missing one due to a calf injury and putting up 25 points and 10 assists in the other.
The Rockets have lost 28 of their last 32 games, including eight in a row.
In their first game since the All-Star break, Houston fell to the host Golden State Warriors on Friday, falling 116-101.
In point of fact, Warriors star Klay Thompson (12) earned more money on his own than Houston did as a group.
In the second quarter, Golden State outscored Houston 40-23 to take a 17-point lead at halftime and stay in control the rest of the way.
Martin scored 22 points to lead the Rockets and was one of five players to score 20 or more points.
Houston is also shorthanded, but it is close to signing back guards Jalen Green (groin) and Kevin Porter Jr. (foot).