HOUSTON — With a tidy bow affixed atop all their regular-season goals, the Houston Rockets shifted into cruise control over the weekend, falling into a 21-point hole before rallying against the Phoenix Suns on Friday prior to their lethargic showing in San Antonio against the Spurs on Sunday.
The Rockets’ 100-83 loss to the Spurs not only snapped their 11-game winning streak, it showcased a truly offensive effort on offense, with Houston managing season lows in points, 3-pointers (seven), and field goal percentage (33.8). The Rockets mustered some late-game moxie to squeeze past the struggling Suns on Friday despite their listlessness. They couldn’t pull that same trick twice.
The Rockets (62-15) will host the Washington Wizards on Tuesday at Toyota Center seeking to recapture some of their lost rhythm.
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Guard Chris Paul, who has missed five of the last six games nursing injuries, is expected to return to the lineup and perhaps provide a measure of thrust.
“Our mental edge is not sharp right now and it hasn’t been,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said. “We’ve played three games without having it and then you play against a really good team and you get beat. That’s academic.
“Being rested and playing bad is not going to be a good formula going into the playoffs. That’s not good, and they have enough rest. This thing, how it became vogue just not to play, I don’t know. We’re rested enough. These other teams don’t seem to have a problem, and we’ve played less than they have. It shouldn’t be a problem.”
In Washington (42-35), the Rockets will face an opponent battling similar internal issues. Despite what could be categorized as a disappointing season, the Wizards clinched a postseason berth last week while welcoming back guard John Wall from a two-month injury hiatus.
Wall paired 15 points with 14 assists in a 107-93 victory over Charlotte on Saturday, only the Wizards’ second win in six games. The following day in Chicago, Washington fell to the lottery-bound Bulls by scoring 35 points in the second half and allowing Chicago to shoot 52.5 percent in a 113-94 loss when Wall rested.
“We made the playoffs,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. “But are we just excited about making the playoffs. That’s the question we have to ask. We’ve got to continue to focus on doing the things that are going to help us win in the playoffs, the good habits that we talk about, that we work on.”
Even with the playoffs secure, the Wizards have plenty to play for down the stretch. Washington will enter Tuesday in sixth place in the East but only one game ahead of eighth-place Milwaukee.
It might be a fruitless endeavor attempting to determine a favorable first-round matchup between Toronto, Boston and Cleveland, but the Wizards would at minimum prefer to play well enough to dictate exactly how their postseason odds shake out.
“That can’t be our mindset because now it’s all about matchups and who you’re going to play in the first round and from there on,” Wizards guard Bradley Beal said. “We can either be playing somebody we want to play or playing a tough (opponent) in the first (round). Regardless we’ve got to be ready but when you have the ability to control your destiny a little bit you’ve got to take advantage of it.”