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10-31

Rockets-Bobcats Preview

AP - Sports

The Houston Rockets have dropped to .500 after a disastrous, road-heavy stretch.

There's no venue that's been less intimidating for opponents than Charlotte's Time Warner Cable Arena.

Houston will try to avoid an eighth straight loss on Monday when they look to hand the Bobcats a franchise-record 15th straight home loss.

Since a 12-3 surge lifted it to seven games above the break-event point and into sixth in the Western Conference, Houston (21-21) has gone winless to fall into a tie for the eighth spot with Portland.

The Rockets are second in the league with 104.5 points per game, but they're averaging 93.3 through this slide following Saturday's 92-79 loss at Minnesota - their sixth road game during the skid.

Houston committed 20 turnovers to raise its league-high average to 16.6.

"We're so out of character right now,'' said coach Kevin McHale, whose team last dropped eight in a row during a 15-game skid early in the 2001-02 season. "We have turnovers, when guys are open we're not hitting them and we take the extra dribble.

"Right now, we're really in a funk and we've got to get ourselves out of it. That's the bottom line. And we will.''

James Harden knows he needs to improve as he's hitting just 25.0 percent from the field and scoring 18.3 points per game - 7.5 less than his season average - during the first three stops of a trip that ends Monday.

"I'm not playing to the best of my ability,'' said Harden, who'll face Charlotte for the first time since pouring in 33 points for Oklahoma City in a 122-95 win March 10. "I'm not making shots, I'm not making plays. I think we're kind of in a fog right now. We've got to find a way to get out of this fog.''

Visiting a Bobcats team that hasn't won at home since Nov. 21 might be the perfect solution.

Charlotte (10-30) opened its four-game homestand Saturday with a 97-93 loss to Sacramento. The Bobcats also dropped 14 straight on their home floor at the end of last season.

"We've just got to come out ready to play next time,'' said leading scorer Kemba Walker, who shot 6 of 17 and finished with 14 points with 10 assists on Saturday. "It's tough. We've been losing some pretty close games, and we definitely need a home win."

Facing the high-scoring Rockets seems like the last thing Charlotte needs. The Bobcats have allowed 106.2 points per game during their home skid, letting opponents shoot 41.3 percent from 3-point range.

Charlotte is 1-17 this season when its opponent hits 10 or more 3s, and Houston averages a West-best 10.0 makes from beyond the arc.

The Rockets, who have lost by an average of 9.1 during their slide, have won three straight in this series and have held Charlotte to 82.7 points per game while winning 11 of the last 13 meetings.

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