HOUSTON – The shots stopped falling, the passes that worked in Game 4 were turnovers in Game 5, and every loose ball or whistle seemed to go the Los Angeles’ Lakers way.
Two days after one of the most stirring victories in franchise history, the Houston Rockets suffered one of their worst postseason defeats and now face elimination Thursday in Game 6 of their Western Conference semifinal series with the Lakers.
“We know it’s time to man-up or else it’s going to be golf time,” said forward Shane Battier, held to five points in Game 5 after scoring 23 in Houston’s 99-87 win Sunday.
The Lakers’ 118-78 win on Tuesday matched Houston’s most lopsided playoff loss. The Rockets say don’t count them out just yet, pointing to their propensity for bouncing back after embarrassing defeats.
Houston dropped 11 games by double-digits during the season and won the next game 10 times.
At this point, the series may hinge more on how the top-seeded Lakers play.
They came out flat and uninspired in Game 4, and the Rockets built a 29-point lead playing without Yao Ming, who broke his left foot the previous game. Kobe Bryant called the Lakers’ mindset for the game a “dumb mistake,” and Los Angeles left nothing to chance in Game 5.
“Every game, you’ve got to rebuild your momentum,” Bryant said. “It doesn’t carry over.”
Howard wants bigger role
ORLANDO, Fla. – Dwight Howard wants the ball more, and Stan Van Gundy is telling fans not to panic. Orlando seems to be teetering on a Magic Meltdown.
Howard met with Van Gundy and apologized Wednesday – but did not retract his statements – after publicly challenging the coach’s strategy in their Game 5 collapse. The Magic center even added another bold comment as the Celtics look to close out Orlando in Game 6 Thursday and move on to the Eastern Conference finals.
“We can’t give up hope,” Howard said Wednesday. “We’re in this series to win it. We are going to win this series.”
It was the second time during these playoffs Howard has questioned why the Magic coach doesn’t run more of the offense through him, with the latest being the loudest and most direct.
“Getting the ball shouldn’t be a big issue for me,” Howard said. “There’s more ways to dominate the game than scoring. Me and coach, we talked about that.”
Howard’s comments have caused enough uproar in Orlando that Van Gundy even suggested that any Magic fans starting to panic need to keep their cool.
“That kind of panic wouldn’t exist in cities that are used to having teams in tough playoff series year after year after year.”
Eddie Jordan seeks 76ers job
PHILADELPHIA – Former NBA coach Eddie Jordan has expressed interest in the Philadelphia 76ers head coaching job and hopes to meet with team president Ed Stefanski by the end of the weekend.
“He needs a coach, and I’m a coach that’s looking for a job,” Jordan said by phone Wednesday night.
Jordan, who was fired by the Washington Wizards in November, interviewed with Sacramento this week.
TNT analyst Doug Collins is also a candidate for the Sixers job.