The Houston Rockets’ bid for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs took a hit with a rare defeat in their last outing, but coach Jeff Van Gundy is more concerned with avoiding another setback.
The Rockets try to hold off a Golden State Warriors squad fighting for a postseason spot when the teams meet on Wednesday at the Toyota Center.
Houston (47-27) has already clinched a return to the playoffs after missing out last year, and is fifth in the Western Conference, 1 1/2 games behind Utah. The Rockets failed to make up any ground against their probable first-round opponent Sunday, though, losing 86-83 to the Jazz.
“I’m not as concerned with where we play in the playoffs,” Van Gundy told the team’s official Web site. “Obviously, every team would want home court. But I’m more concerned with how we play. We didn’t play well enough. We have too many guys making too many mistakes—too many repeat mistakes—and this is causing us to breakdown.”
Houston blew a nine-point lead in the defeat and shot under 40 percent for the second straight game. It was only the Rockets’ third loss in the last 14 contests and snapped a six-game home-winning streak.
“It was a bad loss because we beat ourselves,” said Rockets guard Tracy McGrady, who is averaging 32.5 points in his last four meetings with the Warriors (35-39). “We stopped executing and we stopped getting loose balls and we stopped executing on the defensive end. That cost us the game.”
Yao Ming has certainly been executing lately, as he recorded 35 points and 16 rebounds Sunday, two days after having 39 points and 11 boards in an overtime win over the Los Angeles Lakers. The Rockets’ center is averaging 31.7 points and 13.3 rebounds in his last three matchups with Golden State, including a 38-point, 18-rebound effort in a 109-107 defeat in their most recent meeting on Dec. 14.
These teams have split two meetings this season, but the Rockets have won five of the last six in Houston. Golden State leading scorer Baron Davis hit a long 3-pointer with 1.2 seconds left to lead his team to that Dec. 14 win and finished with 34 points and eight assists.
He was forced to wait out most of Sunday’s contest in the locker room, though, after getting ejected late in the first quarter when he was called for a pair of technical fouls.
Jason Richardson picked up the slack, scoring 13 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Warriors to a 122-117 win over Memphis. That performance followed a 36-point, 12-rebound effort in a victory over Phoenix on Thursday.
Stephen Jackson added 21 points and nine assists for the Warriors, who had six players score in double figures and shot 51.7 percent from the field. Golden State, which finished with a season-high 39 assists, is ninth in the Western Conference, 1 1/2 games behind the Los Angeles Clippers.
“About the time you hope we’ll finally have an easy game you have one of these,” said Warriors coach Don Nelson, whose team trailed by eight early in the fourth quarter. “I’m very happy we found a way to win this one because we couldn’t afford to lose this one and stay in the hunt.”
Golden State is opening a three-game road trip, but will need to play better than its 8-28 record away from home to remain in the hunt for its first playoff berth since 1994.
Rockets guard Luther Head is questionable for this contest after missing the last two with a bruised right shoulder.