Apr 16, 2013, 9:15 AM EDT
PHOENIX — The Rockets aren’t overly concerned with playoff seeding as they look ahead to their final game of the regular season, and maybe that’s a good thing considering the hit the team took on the chin from the Suns in Phoenix on Monday.
Houston was unable to match the intensity of their opponent from the opening tip, and allowed the Suns season highs in first quarter points (39) and first half points (67) on the way to a 119-112 loss that was a serious blow to the team’s chances of avoiding Oklahoma City or San Antonio in the first round of playoffs.
“No excuse, just a lack of desire maybe,” Jeremy Lin said afterward of his team’s slow start. “I think that’s kind of been one of our problems all season is just that focus. It usually comes with a younger team [like ours]. At this point of the season, it’s really not an excuse for us. Every game means so much. We’re talking about playoff seeding, we’re talking about matchups — things that are more important than anything we’ve played for all season. So this one hurts.”
The Rockets now find themselves in a situation where it’s more likely than not that they’ll see either the Thunder or the Spurs in the playoffs.
The scenarios for Houston look like this: A loss to the Lakers in the season finale means finishing as the eight seed, because although the Rockets would be tied with L.A. in the standings, the Lakers hold the tie-breaker based on a better record against teams within the conference.
A win over the Lakers, however, would net Houston the seven seed, except in the unlikely event that the Warriors were to lose in Portland, which would get the Rockets back to the much more preferable six spot — something that Lin was quick to point out when asked about the more ominous matchups looming against one of the West’s top two teams.
The matchup in L.A. is an elimination game for the Lakers, so for them, the playoffs begin on Wednesday. Anyone in the Rockets’ locker room who was asked about finishing the season strong for the best possible playoff position said all of the right things, but Lin knows it’s going to be a tall task to match the intensity of the home team on the final night of the regular season.
“They’re going to be tough to guard,” he said. “I know that for a fact. They’re going to run a lot of [Mike D’Antoni] stuff. You have [Dwight Howard] in the middle, you have Pau Gasol, who’s been making a lot of good basketball plays recently. We’re going to have our hands full.”
It may be understandable for the Rockets to overlook a Suns team that didn’t have anything left to play for, but it’s hard to envision them doing the same for Wednesday’s showdown in Los Angeles. Simply put, no one lays down against the Lakers while playing on one of the game’s biggest stages at Staples Center, especially not on national television with a playoff berth hanging in the balance.
Lin understands that the stakes may be higher for the Lakers than his own team in that one, but would still like to finish the regular season on a positive note rather than continuing the slide by dropping four of the team’s final six games heading into the postsason.
“It’ll be a hostile environment,” Lin said. “They’re going to be playing for the playoffs, so in one sense, they may be playing for more than we are. But we really can’t see it like that.”
May 5, 2015, 11:04 PM EDT
John Wall was a late scratch, but Washington remained within striking distance for most of the contest.
May 5, 2015, 10:20 PM EDT
No smiles for Chicago
May 5, 2015, 9:32 PM EDT
Grizzlies point guard says foot injury still bothering him
May 5, 2015, 8:59 PM EDT
Only one Spurs player makes more than that
May 5, 2015, 8:05 PM EDT
Draymond Green: The Real MVP
May 5, 2015, 7:18 PM EDT
Huge loss for Washington to put it lightly
May 5, 2015, 6:33 PM EDT
So bring in Fred Hoiberg and send Thibs to Orlando? Not so fast
May 5, 2015, 5:30 PM EDT
May 5, 2015, 4:45 PM EDT
The Clippers are playing with house money after Game 1.
May 5, 2015, 4:00 PM EDT
Really Tony? Who have we seen like Curry before?
May 5, 2015, 3:15 PM EDT
Conley has missed his team’s last three games.
May 5, 2015, 2:30 PM EDT
“I don’t hear y’all crying now!”
May 5, 2015, 1:50 PM EDT
Wall suffered a wrist injury and Beal suffered an ankle injury in Washington’s Game 1 win.
May 5, 2015, 1:10 PM EDT
Thomas cost the Knicks $11.6 million following a sexual harassment lawsuit in 2007, so putting him in charge of a women’s team seems like an odd choice.
Blake Griffin put up historically-great numbers in Clippers’ last two victories over Rockets and Spurs
May 5, 2015, 12:30 PM EDT
Griffin became the first player to notch back-to-back playoff triple-doubles since …
May 5, 2015, 11:50 AM EDT
San Antonio needs to find ways to create cap space this summer.
May 5, 2015, 11:10 AM EDT
The chatter continues, but what if Chicago makes it to the Finals?
May 5, 2015, 10:30 AM EDT
Kyrie finished with a game-high 30 points, and these were two of his most difficult shots.
May 5, 2015, 9:50 AM EDT
LeBron was one assist shy of a triple-double, but shot just 9-of-22 and committed 6 turnovers in Cleveland’s loss.
May 5, 2015, 9:10 AM EDT
Stonecutter’s Credo continues to be popular in NBA circles.
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