(Eds: With AP Photos.) By CHRIS DUNCAN AP Sports Writer Just last week, the Houston Rockets were quietly creeping toward the top of the Southwest Division, winners in nine of their previous 10 games.
The reality check may have arrived.
After their worst defensive performance of the season, Houston blew a 19-point lead in San Antonio on Wednesday night to slip back down in the standings. The Rockets host Phoenix on Friday, then play six straight road games - a pivotal stretch that could go a long way in determining their season.
''It's going to be very important for us,'' forward Luis Scola said Thursday. ''We're going to play some good teams, we're going to play them on the road, we're going to have a good, long trip and if we are able to succeed, that will be a good indication.''
The Rockets started 3-10 in the wake of the ill-fated, three-way trade that would've brought Pau Gasol to town and shipped Scola, sharpshooter Kevin Martin and point guard Goran Dragic to New Orleans.