(AP) — 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.



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