The Rockets Press On
With two games left in the regular season and the number one spot in the league, one might think the Rockets are planning on coasting into the playoff season but that is far from the case. Though there are other teams in the conference battling for a playoff spot, the Rockets want to be playoff ready and maintain a level of intention and intensity that will carry them through.
“… We still want to be who we want to be going into the playoffs,” PJ Tucker explained. “I’m going to play. Chris (Paul) is going to play. Trevor (Ariza). We want to feel like a well-oiled machine. Even though we’ve locked up in first, we still want to go into the playoffs feeling good. It matters.”
A prime example would be the final home game against the Oklahoma City Thunder (OKC). The Rockets ultimately fell to OKC 108-102. It was a hard fought game and though it looked like the Rockets wanted to win, OKC needed to win and their hunger gave them the edge. As has been the case in the NBA for the entire season, there were a number of questionable calls that left key Rockets players frustrated. These types of situations as they transition into the playoffs are actually really great in testing the mental fortitude it takes to be victorious.
“We’re not quite honed in,” Coach Mike D’Antoni said of the loss. “You have to play with an appropriate amount of fear if you do something; you have something to lose. We haven’t had that. Even arguing with referees, ‘Oh, so I got a technical. So what. We lost. So, OK.’ But there’s not that fear. Other teams have that. I think that’s the difference.”
“Even against Oklahoma City, we played pretty well. But we didn’t have the extra thing they had. Like athletically, they’re stronger and faster. You make up for that with the desire and the fear that will send you to another height. We just didn’t have it. That’s normal.”
Moving into the final games of the season, D’Antoni made it clear that he wants everyone to stay ready.
“We’ll do what we need to do.” D’Antoni said. “You have to be careful about too much rest so the first (playoff) game you come out of the chute ready to go. Some guys might want to play Wednesday, like a quarter, like a workout.”
It’s easy to start slipping as the season comes to a close but health, come playoff time, might be a little more important than padding the season win record.
On slipping, D’Antoni explained, “You try to avoid it. You try to do the best that you can. It’s like when I was playing. I would have a great warm-up. I couldn’t miss shots. I’d get in the game and screw it up and couldn’t make a shot. Or I had warm-ups I missed them all and get in the game and couldn’t miss. Theoretically, you can’t just turn the switch on. But their switch is on. Whether they have it on demand (on Tuesday), I don’t know. Their switch will be on Saturday. I really think they are too veteran-like to screw that up.”