Houston Rockets play like the tired team in series opener against Clippers

Houston Rockets play like the tired team in series opener against Clippers
Rockets forward Josh Smith loses the ball out of bounds after Clippers forward Matt Barnes blocked his shot in Game 1. (Wally Skalij, Los Angeles Times)

Kevin McHale ripped through the core of his entire Houston Rockets team, his language succinctly getting to the point.

McHale had just watched the short-handed Clippers tear apart the well-rested Rockets in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals, and that made the Rockets coach grow more incensed as he talked about his team's 117-101 loss at Toyota Center.

"They kicked our ass," a visibly upset McHale said. "That's the bottom line."

The Rockets had five days off to rest after beating the Dallas Mavericks in the first round, and yet they played like the tired team.

The Clippers played Saturday night, jumped on a plane Sunday and had to play Monday night.

"There's no excuses," McHale said. "We had time off. No, they came out and they wanted it more."

The Rockets knew Chris Paul wasn't playing because of a strained left hamstring, and yet they didn't play with the effort McHale wanted.

"We looked and felt a half-step slow the whole night," McHale said. "We looked a half-step slow in the first quarter, looked and felt a half-step slow the whole game. We were reacting to everything they were doing."


The Rockets didn't take care of the basketball, turning it over 24 times, upsetting McHale even more.

"These are professional athletes, and the turnovers we had were like seventh and eighth grade," McHale said. "We jumped in the air with no one to throw it to and just threw it in the air. We have to be better."

Now the Rockets have lost the home-court advantage and know they must play better in Game 2 here Wednesday night.

"I think all of us are frustrated," said James Harden, who had nine of the Rockets' turnovers. "Losing Game 1. Off five days of rest. All of us are frustrated. Like I said, we didn't play well at all. We have to do a better job."

The Rockets once had a 13-point lead in the first half, which was hard to believe after they went down by 18 in the fourth quarter, never showing much resistance.

"There are no excuses," McHale said. "You either get the thing done or you don't get it done. And we didn't get it done."

There were times when Dwight Howard complained about the officiating. Harden picked up his fourth foul with 0.1 seconds left in the third quarter.

That was the kind of night it was for the Rockets.

"We didn't play with much composure all night long," McHale said. "We had 24 turnovers. We were just sloppy. They played with much more of an edge. They played harder than we did. Again, we did not play very well, and I didn't believe our effort for a second-round game, trying to hold home court, in the first game, them coming off a dogfight series against the Spurs, they had more energy than we did."

Follow Borderick Turner on Twitter @BA_Turner