HOUSTON (AP) - Kevin McHale preaches consistency. So far his young Rockets team hasn t heeded his words and is coming off two straight losses to the Grizzlies.
McHale knows Houston, despite a 29-17 record, must play better. Coming up on Tuesday night are the Southwest Division-leading San Antonio Spurs.
When asked how his team can be more consistent, McHale shared several ideas.
We ve got to be better against a lot of different styles of basketball, he said. We ve got to know what our strengths and weaknesses are and play to our strengths. We ve got to be way more tied together and diligent about all the little things. We worry too much about all the big things. But we ve got to do all the little things and that leads to big things.
The Rockets have won both previous meetings with the Spurs this season. McHale doesn t expect that success to factor into Tuesday s game, especially with San Antonio coming off a tough loss to the Heat.
It s going to be a tough game, McHale said. The first two games don t make any difference. We re a different team. They re a different team. We ve got to play really well. That team lost to Miami, they re going to come in hungry.
Dwight Howard is still upset about how Houston played against Memphis, but believes rough spots like this will help the Rockets in the long run.
These are growing pains, Howard said. Losing those games and trying to learn from experience on how to play is good for our team. We hate to lose and we were all (ticked) off about the last two games, but it was some things that we learned and picked up from playing against a team like Memphis and we ll get better.
The 28-year-old Howard knows that a team as young as the Rockets is going to have many ups and downs throughout the season. But he thinks the lessons they learn now will be the difference when they get to the playoffs.
We can t look at anything in a negative way, he said. We have to stay positive and understand that everything comes with time. We ve still got to play hard and go out there and be aggressive but also understand that we re a great team in progress. It doesn t happen overnight.
James Harden, who leads the team in scoring with almost 24 points a game, has struggled offensively in the last two games, averaging just 13. He hasn t had any of those struggles against San Antonio since joining the Rockets before last season and has averaged 30 points a game against the Spurs.
He isn t sure why he s played so well against the Spurs.
I m just happy to go out there and do my job, Harden said. Whether it s the Spurs or the Memphis Grizzlies or the Thunder or the Lakers or whoever, every game is important to me and I just try to go out there and do my best.
Harden believes the Rockets have had trouble with consistency because of various injuries that have forced them to change their starting lineup almost every night.
Whatever guys are out there we re trying to get it going, he said. It s kind of hard to get a rhythm and kind of get a feel for where guys like to be at because every other game it s a different lineup. So we just work with it.
Along with Harden getting back on track, the Rockets are also focused on being aggressive inside and looking to score there first. The Rockets lead the NBA in points in the paint, but were outscored 104-62 in that area in the last two games.
We just shot long shot after long shot and never got the ball in the paint, McHale said. When we re getting in the paint, good things happen.