Rockets try to 'stay positive' after third consecutive loss

HOUSTON -- As Russell Westbrook dressed at his locker, he quietly offered encouraging moments for each of his Houston Rockets teammates who walked past.

Houston hit a low point with its 124-115 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday night, when LeBron James was showered with MVP chants in the Rockets' home arena. It was Houston's third consecutive loss and fourth in five games, the 26-15 Rockets' worst stretch of the season, causing them to slide to sixth place in the Western Conference midway through what they believed could be a championship campaign.

"We've got to stay positive, man," said Westbrook, who had 35 points, nine rebounds and seven assists in the loss. "Like I said the other day, in adversity, whatcha gonna do? Gotta look at yourself, stay locked in. It's a part of the season, man. It happens, but now, as a unit, as a team, we've got to stick together and figure out the best way to put our best foot forward."

Westbrook challenged the Rockets to play harder after Wednesday's loss to the Portland Trail Blazers. They seemed to respond for a half Saturday.

But the Rockets stumbled in the third quarter after taking a six-point lead into halftime. The Lakers outscored Houston by a 32-17 margin in the third, when the Rockets had as many turnovers as field goals, shooting 6-of-28 from the floor.

Only some garbage points in the final minute prevented the Rockets from losing by double figures for the fourth time in their five-game slump.

"We're going through a tough time, obviously," Rockets star James Harden said. "It happens to I think every team throughout the course of the year, but tough times don't last long, especially for people and teams that are built for it. We've just got to continue to fight through it, continue to get better, keep grinding through moments like these."

As Harden noted, the upcoming schedule doesn't do the Rockets any favors. Five of Houston's next seven games are against teams that are currently in West playoff spots, starting with the Oklahoma City Thunder at home on Monday afternoon.

"You go through a little bad spell and it's hard to see the other side," said Houston power forward P.J. Tucker, who aggravated a stinger in the second half but returned to the game. "But how the West is going right now, we've just got to keep playing. It don't get any easier. We've got a tough week coming up this week. We've got to be ready. We can't hang our heads on this game. Played a good half, came out the second half and kind of lost it."

Coach Mike D'Antoni described the Rockets as "shaken a little bit, but we're not down."

"It's not fun for anybody, but we can get out of this," D'Antoni said.

D'Antoni referenced Houston's awful start last season as reason to believe the Rockets would get back on the right track. Houston was 11-14 in early December 2018 after a stretch of seven losses in 10 games and recovered to go 53-28 before being eliminated by the Golden State Warriors in the second round.

"There's no quit in them," D'Antoni said. "We're just not playing well. We will battle back and get it done. I have complete confidence that we'll get it done."