Although the Houston Rockets have finally been eliminated from playoff contention, they still want to finish a difficult season on a positive note.
The Rockets will take the court one night after their playoff hopes ended when they host the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday.
Houston (41-38) was eager to get back to the postseason after failing to get a fourth straight berth when star center Yao Ming(notes) missed all of 2009-10. With plans to give Yao limited minutes this season and Aaron Brooks(notes) emerging into a steady guard heading into his fourth season, there was cause for optimism.
Yao, however, was limited to five games before his season ended due to a stress fracture in his left ankle that may end his career. Brooks, the team’s leading returning scorer, hurt his ankle and drew a suspension this before he was traded to Phoenix on Feb. 24.
The Rockets were eliminated when Memphis beat Sacramento on Friday. They need two wins to surpass last season’s total, and insist they will focus on playing hard.
“You don’t want to play like the season’s over with,” coach Rick Adelman said. “You’ve done too much, you’ve worked too hard - that’s not who we are.
“We may lose these games, but we’re not going to lose because we’re not going out and giving our total effort. You set a standard that you’ve been doing since the season began, let’s live up to that standard.”
Houston clawed back into the fringes of contention by winning eight of 10 from March 14-April 3, before consecutive losses Tuesday to Sacramento and Wednesday at New Orleans. Kevin Martin(notes) averaged 25.5 points in the last two losses, and is averaging 28.2 in his last nine.
“I think just because of the response the players have had, the way they’ve responded has been terrific,” Adelman said. “When you go through it, it’s not enjoyable sometimes.”
Although Blake Griffin(notes) has three double-doubles against Houston, the rookie power forward is averaging 19.3 points on 41.7 percent shooting versus the Rockets - his second-worst mark against a Western Conference opponent. Griffin has also totaled 43 rebounds as the Clippers (31-49) have lost two of three to the Rockets.
Griffin saw his streak of six straight double-doubles end when he had 23 points, nine rebounds and six assists in Friday’s 107-96 loss at Dallas. His 61 double-doubles rank third in the league.
Houston had won seven straight at home before Tuesday’s 104-101 loss to the Kings.