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Rockets look to get greedy

HOUSTON -- In discussing the Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff admired his New Year’s Eve opponent’s greed.

They’re greedy he said.

And when your own team is 16-17, seventh seed in the Western Conference with a 9-8 mark against below-.500 teams, which include three losses to the Denver Nuggets and two to the Brooklyn Nets, Bickerstaff would like to see some greed as well.

“I think everybody does. Period,” Bickerstaff said after Wednesday’s practice. “That’s the way you should approach whatever it is that you’re doing. You should want more in a selfless way. You want more wins, you should want to be better, whatever it is, you should be greedy, that’s the mentality you should have.”

The Rockets have shown flashes of winning basketball. This team has quality wins over the San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Clippers (twice) and Oklahoma City Thunder. Yet, they blew a 19-point lead in losing to the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday night and faltered down the stretch in a road loss to the Orlando Magic last week. There was another bad loss at New Orleans, the day after Christmas, prompting Bickerstaff to say the team disrespected the game.

So what now?

The Rockets face a Warriors team Thursday that, if it wins Wednesday night in Dallas, will need just one more victory to set the NBA record for best winning percentage (96.9) entering the New Year.

Last season, the Warriors swept the season series between the teams for the first time since the 1986-87 season, and the Rockets have lost the last six regular-season games. Houston is averaging just 98.2 points per game against the Warriors in the last five meetings and shooting a dismal 28.4 percent from three-point range in the same span.

Of course it was the Warriors that eliminated the Rockets in five games in the West finals last season despite the Rockets having a chance to earn a split on the road in Games 1 and 2.

Jason Terry, who played in that series, said this is a vastly different Rockets team and won’t entertain any similarities.

Yet even Terry knows that regardless of what you think of the Rockets' issues against the Warriors, just handling their own business has been a problem. A major one.

“I think that’s been our biggest vice this season ... you get 15-point leads and, for some reason, teams gain confidence and come back,” Terry said. “We haven’t gotten there yet and I believe in this team and we will get to the point where we get to that killer instinct. You watch Golden State, they they have a killer instinct. If they get down 15, they’re coming back fighting like no other. If they’re up 15, they’re going up 30 and their starters sit out the fourth quarter. That’s a trend that they’ve had all season and that’s what we have to get to.”

During the Warriors' sprite-like start to the season came the revelation that shooting guard Klay Thompson said he’s the best at his position.

It seems people may have forgotten James Harden, who is second in the league in scoring and leads two-guards in Real Plus Minus.

Harden seemed amused by Thompson’s thoughts. After all, when you’re playing with the best team in the league, you can say what you want. Right?

“People are going to talk,” Harden said. “Just let them talk and do what they’re going to do. Whatever gets them excited, whatever gives them that confidence to want to talk, just go ahead and do it. But we really know what’s going on.”

Yes, Harden’s season has been strong. Not MVP-like but strong enough where he should earn first-team All-NBA honors again. Maybe.

The record says what you are, a famous football coach once said, and the Rockets at just a game below .500 are what they are.

“Individually, we have to look ourselves in the mirror and figure out how to help our team,” Harden said. “And how can we get better and then collectively bring in as a group and then we’ll be alright.”