James Harden sat in a chair with ice on his knees and insisted that he was just fine while he coughed and coughed after Houston’s shoot-around Thursday on the campus of UCLA.
Harden had dealt with the flu in Game 5 that didn’t slow him down much at all and he was adamant that he and the Rockets are prepared for Game 6 Thursday night against the Clippers at Staples Center.
“I’m good,” Harden said while he looked up at the media surrounding him. “I’m all right.”
The Rockets played their best game of the best-of-seven second-round series in Game 5 Tuesday night at home, winning by 21 points, using Harden’s triple-double (26 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists), Dwight Howard’s 20 points, 15 rebounds) and Trevor Ariza’s energy (22 points, 8 rebounds) to keep their season from ending.
“I think it gives us even more confidence that we played pretty well last game after coming off two terrible losses,” said Harden, referring to Houston losing by double digits in both Games 3 and 4 in Los Angeles. “That’s probably the best we’ve played all series long.”
Houston is down 3-2 in the series and has to win yet again to starve off elimination and extend the series to a Game 7 at the Toyota Center on Sunday.
“It’s one game,” Harden said. “It’s one game on the road that we have to win in order to bring it back home for a Game 7.”
History isn’t on the side of the Rockets to win this series, but don’t tell Harden that.
Only eight teams have ever come back from a 3-1 deficit to win an NBA playoff series, the last being the Phoenix Suns in 2006.
“We just worry about one game,” Harden said. “We not worried about the statistics at all or what happened previously before us.”
The Rockets were tied with the Clippers for the second-best road record during the regular season at 26-15.
That’s something Houston will hang on to for this sixth game.
“We got to be positive,” Howard said. “We can’t come into the game thinking we’re going to lose. We’ve got to believe that we can win this series and win this game tonight.”
The Rockets will stick with starting Josh Smith at power forward in place of Terrence Jones.
For his part, Howard hopes he can stick with keeping his composure in the game and not let the officiating affect his play.
“I can ‘t concern myself with the referees and play calls that happen out there,” he said. “I’ve just got to go out there and enjoy myself and play basketball.
“I’m going to get some bad calls. I’m going to get some things that may not go my way. But instead of me getting upset and allowing it to affect me, I’ve just got to stay strong and continue to play.”
Follow Broderick Turner on Twitter @BA_Turner