Rockets lose to Clippers as they try to get into postseason form

LOS ANGELES -- The Houston Rockets have one more game to get right before the postseason. Coach Mike D'Antoni said a dress rehearsal will occur Wednesday night in the regular-season finale against Minnesota.

But on Monday night, the LA Clippers held on to the fourth seed in the Western Conference with a dominating 125-96 victory over the Rockets at Staples Center.

Houston simply played badly in the third quarter, scoring a season-low 12 points and shooting 5-of-21 from the field. Houston also missed seven of eight 3-pointers in the quarter. The game was so bad James Harden didn't play in the fourth quarter.

"They needed this game," Harden said of the Clippers.

The Rockets sat Nene Hilario, Lou Williams, Clint Capela and Patrick Beverley for a variety of reasons. D'Antoni had some players on minute restrictions such as Ryan Anderson, who didn’t play in the second half.

D'Antoni, despite his team being secured as the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference, is seeking some answers.

With backup small forward Sam Dekker out for at least the opening round of the postseason with a fractured hand, D'Antoni is trying to give playing time to Troy Williams, a late-season signee.

Williams finished with 15 points in 24 minutes and displayed flashes to show that he should get the roughly 8-10 minutes Dekker would have gotten. But there were some misplays too that gives pause regarding any extended postseason minutes for Williams. He fouled Paul Pierce as the veteran forward scored his 26,397th point, moving Pierce into 15th-place all-time on the NBA scoring list.

Williams will play Wednesday, giving him another opportunity to show D'Antoni that he can be trusted.

"We'll see, we'll see, I think so, but we'll see," D'Antoni said.

Anderson has played the past three games after missing the previous six with a sprained right ankle. The Rockets needed to see Anderson move laterally and if his shot was off. In Anderson's three games he has shot 60 percent from the field while averaging 15 points per game. Anderson has moved well on the floor and, despite some lingering swelling, should be all right for the postseason.

"These games, at least for me, I just want to get back to feeling good and I feel great," Anderson said. "And these are games where we want to be healthy going into the playoffs."

Of course, the Rockets have minor injuries to get through:

  • There's Beverley and the stinger on his right shoulder.

  • The swelling in Nene's right hand has gone down.

  • Capela is dealing with a tweaked Achilles.

These injuries are nothing to worry about, yet. The Rockets have to get people rest, something that has been done the past two nights. Everyone is expected to be available for Wednesday's game, when D'Antoni is expected to use his regulars for three quarters.

After a 31-10 start to the season the Rockets have gone 27-17 heading into the finale. That includes this current stretch, in which the Rockets have lost five of their past eight games. It seems the team peaked in November and December and put it on cruise control the final two months of the season.

After Wednesday, it gets real.

"This is why you play the season for, we're going to be ready for the playoffs, that's for sure," Eric Gordon said. "I think that's where we might play our best basketball where we can hone in on doing what we need to do and we had a great year to put ourselves in position. Of course, these last games are tough and you just got to get through it and maintain your health."