Rockets back at practice, ready for second half
The All-Star break is over and the Rockets know now's the time to really buckle down for a playoff push.
Houston's record is 29-26, good enough for the eight spot in the Western Conference, three games up on the Blazers and two-and-a-half games back of the Warriors in the sixth spot.
"There's definitely an intensity," James Harden said. "We have to try to catch whoever's in the seventh, whoever's in the six spot. We can't continue to linger around the eighth spot.
"We've got to really lock in," he continued. "We've got to preach every single day that the opportunity... everybody has to step up in order for us to stay in the playoff race."
"We're right in the thick of things," Chandler Parsons said. "We can beat anybody on any given night. We can also lose to anybody on any given night. We have to seize the moment, live in the moment where you just come prepared to work every day."
That said, it was natural for the first day to be a little sluggish for everybody.
"The focus was there," Jeremy Lin said. "It was just a little sloppy, a little sluggish. People were a little slower. A little rusty, that's all, but that should be expected. That's going to be true for every single team's practice.
"We're going to use today and tomorrow to get everything back, back the way we want it to go."
And the way the Rockets want it to go, is continuing improvement down the stretch.
"There's still the same stuff we were working on a a month ago," Kevin McHale said. "We've got to get our defense tighter. We've got to get our offensive spacing and ball movement a little bit better.
"Today was just a continuation of what we've been working on the last month."
The difference now, though, is that there's less of a margin for error.
"There are plays that we can't take off that we did take off in the early part of the season," Harden said. "Now, we can't. Every play counts. 27 games. Every game's crucial."
"Coach keeps talking about the playoff push and how it's going to fly right by," Lin said. "It's all about seeding now and so we've got to make sure we're in."