The visiting Los Angeles Clippers aim for their 11th consecutive win against the Phoenix Suns on Friday night.
The 10-game winning streak against Phoenix equals the Clippers' longest active win streak against another NBA team. They have also won 10 straight against Orlando, their opponent on Sunday.
Los Angeles went 6-9 in December following a 15-6 start, and then lost 119-113 to visiting Philadelphia on Tuesday.
The Clippers gave up 41 points in the first quarter and 76 in the opening half, the most allowed in any half this season. Los Angeles buttoned down on defense in the second half and held the 76ers to 18 points in the fourth quarter, but the Clippers had too much ground to make up.
"Our problem, still, is on the defensive end," said Clippers coach Doc Rivers. "It's proof that it's there, but it just feels like, right now, when it's a defensive run, we have to search for the right unit, the right group of guys, to give us defensive fight. And it's hard to win that way."
The Suns found out how explosive Philadelphia can be on Wednesday, giving up 72 first-half points en route to a 132-127 loss in Phoenix.
That loss followed three straight defeats to Oklahoma City, Denver and Golden State, the top three teams in the Western Conference.
The Clippers needed overtime to beat the Suns on Dec. 10 in Phoenix. The Suns were without leading scorer Devin Booker because of a hamstring injury, and second-leading scorer T.J. Warren was ejected after receiving back-to-back technical fouls late in the first half.
Booker, who averages 25.5 points a game, has missed three of the past five games against the Clippers because of injury, and played with an injured toe in another game in Los Angeles last season after stubbing it in his hotel room the night before.
Both Booker and Warren are back, however.
Booker had 37 points and eight assists against the 76ers, but a deficit that grew to 12 points in the first five minutes was too much to overcome.
The Clippers have been facing big early deficits of late.
Three days before being blitzed early by Philadelphia, Los Angeles fell behind 14-4 in the first 3 1/2 minutes against the San Antonio Spurs before eventually losing 122-111.
"As of late, we've been trying to ease into games, and we can't do that," Clippers point guard Patrick Beverley said. "We'll fix it. You know, it's just that time of season, where you know, there's drag and all that, but we'll come out and we'll fix it."
The Clippers and Suns showed against the 76ers that they won't go down easily.
Los Angeles trailed by 15 points with just over seven minutes left before cutting the deficit to four with 2:33 remaining.
Phoenix trailed by 18 with 8:43 remaining before pulling within six with 37 seconds remaining.
Suns coach Igor Kokoskov told reporters after the loss to the 76ers that a lack of recent practice time has hurt the Suns.
"When your foundation is not as solid, because we're not a veteran team that can just polish, work on little details and move on, we have to drill some stuff," he said. "We can't talk basketball. We have to play basketball."
Updated January 3, 2019