The Rockets are down, 3-1, to the Clippers in the best-of-seven series and must make a defensive stand Tuesday night in Game 5 at Toyota Center or their season will be over.
“I think we’ve got to take more pride individually,” Trevor Ariza said after Houston’s shootaround Tuesday morning. “Myself, all of us. We all have to just be better on the defensive end. Not give up layups. Not give them anything easy.”
The Rockets were a pretty good defensive team in the regular season, allowing 100.5 points per game, holding teams to 44.3% shooting.
Against the Clippers, Houston’s defense has been trampled, surrendering almost 20 points more per game in the four playoff games than it did during the regular season.
The Rockets have allowed the Clippers to average 119.5 points per game, leaving reporters to wonder where Houston’s pride has gone in this series.
“I don’t think it’s gone anywhere,” Ariza said. “We’ve just got to come out here and show it, leave it all out here.
“You can’t win if you don’t stop anybody. We’ve been giving up a lot of points and we’ve been on the losing end of that.”
It hasn’t helped that the Rockets turned the ball over 21 times in Game 4 and 15 times in Game 3.
The Clippers have taken advantage of the extra possessions, punishing the Rockets in yet another way.
“When we don’t score or when we turn the ball over, they’re making us pay,” Jason Terry said. “And that doesn’t allow you to have your defense set up and eventually it starts to erode your confidence in your defense.”
The Rockets can help themselves on defense if center Dwight Howard can stay in the game and if he can keep his composure.
Howard, who fouled out of Game 4, is averaging 4.3 fouls per game. But he is also averaging 2.8 blocks per game.
He was fined $15,000 by the NBA on Monday for making contact above the shoulders on Matt Barnes in Game 4 on Sunday.
Howard didn’t want to address the fine, just saying that he has to “keep your cool.”
“There aren't any keys to it,” Howard said. “When you are in the battle, you get emotional. Everything is on the line so you've got to just make sure when that stuff is happening, you try to stay as composed as possible. At times, it can be difficult because we want to win.
“We have to find a way. That's the only way to get it done. We can't hang our heads. We can't look defeated.”