Having lost nearly as many games this past week as they did the first two months of the season, the injuries appear to be starting to catch up with the Boston Celtics.
The Atlantic Division leaders are unlikely to receive any sympathy from the Toronto Raptors.
The Celtics, who again might be without star point guard Rajon Rondo, try to avoid losing three straight games for the first time this season Sunday night against a banged-up Raptors team that only had eight healthy players its last time out.
Rondo has missed Boston's last seven games after spraining his left ankle in New York on Dec. 15. The NBA leader with 13.8 assists per game went through a workout before Friday's game against New Orleans and was sitting on the bench during pregame warmups, but coach Doc Rivers said he wasn't ready yet.
The Celtics (24-7) were also without forward Kevin Garnett after he strained a right calf in Wednesday's disappointing 104-92 loss to Detroit, and ended up losing to the Hornets 83-81. Garnett is expected to be out two weeks, but Rondo's return could be imminent.
Despite injuries to two of the team's best players, Boston nearly beat New Orleans but Ray Allen's 3-point bid missed in the closing seconds.
A near victory means little to Rivers, who saw his team lose for the third time in four contests following a 14-game winning streak.
"I told the guys after the game that I'm not happy, we should have won the game," Rivers said.
"I heard guys saying somebody needs to step up. Nobody needs to step up. The guys just need to do what they can do."
Allen led Boston with 18 points Friday, but Paul Pierce didn't have one of his better games, finishing with 12 points and a season-high six turnovers.
"Regardless of the injuries, we've still got to show up and play," Pierce said. "There's no moral victories."
The Raptors (11-21) are fully aware of how difficult it is to win with injuries.
Stojakovic, Evans, Weems and Bayless are likely to be out again, but Bargnani's status is uncertain for the Raptors, losers of 10 of 13. Bargnani, Toronto's leading scorer at 21.2 points, has missed three straight and five of the last seven games.
DeMar DeRozan stepped up against the Rockets, finishing with a career-high 37 points on 12 of 21 shooting but the rest of the team shot 37.3 percent. Toronto's depleted bench was outscored 65-23.
"With only eight healthy bodies, we needed more guys to play better," coach Jay Triano said.
Injuries have been a season-long problem for the Raptors, who dressed only eight players when they faced the Celtics on Nov. 12, but still won 102-101. Amir Johnson made two free throws with 2.7 seconds left and Bargnani had 29 points for Toronto, which snapped an eight-game losing streak in the series.
Boston avenged that defeat five days later with a 110-101 home win over the Raptors, behind Garnett's 26 points and 11 rebounds.