Kevin McHale doesn’t know what to expect from Rockets in Game 6

Dwight Howard, Matt Barnes

Houston center Dwight Howard blocks a shot from Matt Barnes during the Clippers’ Game 5 loss to the Rockets, 124-103.

(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Maybe, it was suggested to Houston Coach Kevin McHale, playing loose is what propelled the Rockets to a must-win victory in Game 5 Tuesday night and maybe that same approach could help his team in another must-win Game 6 Thursday night.

Maybe, it was suggested to McHale on Wednesday, not playing tight and being focused is what prevented the Rockets from being eliminated and pulled them to within 3-2 in the second-round playoff series against the Clippers.

Then again, maybe not, McHale said.

Maybe it was as simple as the Rockets playing hard in the fifth game to save their season and maybe it will take playing even harder Thursday night at Staples Center for Houston to force a Game 7 Sunday at Toyota Center.


“Loose. Tight. Focus. Not focus. I don’t know. You’ve just got to go and play,” McHale said at a news conference at the team’s hotel in Beverly Hills. “I’ve never been one to believe in all that stuff, to be truthful.

“You go out there and you play basketball. There’s a calmness that comes when we step on the floor cause you’ve done it so much and you’ve just got to get into that state and go play.”

The Rockets didn’t practice Wednesday, preferring to watch film and to give All-Star guard James Harden a day off to rest after he played almost 43 minutes in Game 5 with flu that required him to get an IV.

McHale said Harden would be ready for Game 6.


“He looked OK. He had a little bit of a cough,” McHale said. “We just had a meeting and watched some film.”

Only eight teams have come back from a 3-1 deficit to win an NBA playoff series, the last being the Phoenix Suns against the Lakers in 2006.

The Rockets hope they can make it nine teams.

“Again, we’ve got a game tomorrow night that we have to find a way to win,” McHale said. “We’ve got to go out and we’ve got to win a road game. We’ve been a pretty good road team all year long. It’s not going to be easy. They are going to make it hard. That’s their job. Our job is to make it as hard as we can on them. We’ve just got to go out and do it.”

McHale made a lineup switch in Game 5 that seemed to help, starting Josh Smith at power forward in place of Terrence Jones.

But McHale was coy when asked if Smith would start again.

“We’ll find out tomorrow night,” McHale said.

Follow Broderick Turner on Twitter: @BA_Turner


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