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The Houston Rockets straight-up embarrassed themselves

Welcome to the worst-case scenario.

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Of all the losses the Rockets have had this season, this was the absolute worst. It was the worst loss for the Rockets in quite a long time, and not because they spectacularly failed to capitalize on Chris Paul being out of the lineup for the Clippers. It was simply an all-encompassing demoralization, a complete embarrassment from a team that had played with so much pride all year to this point that a performance like this game didn't seem possible. The Rockets lost to Los Angeles, 117-101, but the score doesn't begin to do it justice.

We'll never know for sure why the Rockets didn't show up to play tonight. Maybe six days was too long of a layoff. Maybe when they heard that Chris Paul wasn't playing, they just relaxed too much. It was probably a combination of the two, but it was inexcusable regardless. There are no guarantees when it comes to Chris Paul's hamstring, but this was the one game they knew he would miss, and it was at home. And they gave it away.

The numbers are ugly. 24 turnovers. 58 percent free-throw shooting for the game. Only 16 minutes for Terrence Jones, who got the snot kicked out of him on both ends by Blake Griffin. Only 13 attempts from the field and 6 attempts from the free-throw line for James Harden. The numbers don't begin to tell the story, however. The Rockets played with no intensity or focus, tossing behind-the-back passes away, falling asleep off the ball on defense. Even those weren't the worst part of the game.

The Rockets quit. Yes, they were down double digits with less than two minutes remaining, but there was still time for at least four possessions with quick fouls. Instead, after DeAndre Jordan hit on both free throw attempts and Dwight Howard missed on both of his immediately after, the whole team decided the game was over and there was no need to play defense. And that's not how you treat a playoff game, especially at home for fans who haven't seen you in the second round of the playoffs for years.

Everything that went right for the Rockets in their first-round series against the Dallas Mavericks went wrong tonight (with one exception, which we'll get to). Corey Brewer went cold from outside. Josh Smith went cold from everywhere. James Harden didn't improve from the field, and he again was reluctant to drive on DeAndre Jordan, continuing a trend from the regular season.

The Clippers had Harden's number, period. He turned the ball over nine times, often when L.A. blew up a pick-and-roll and jumped into Harden's passing lanes. It's hard to say what he can do better, since on the couple of occasions he did drive in a half-court offense, DeAndre was there to meet him and block his shot without fouling. JJ Redick brilliantly recognized that Harden's driving threat was diminished and played him very tightly on the perimeter, denying James open jumpers.

Harden can't have another nine-turnover game, but he also is going to need someone to knock down three-point shots around him to keep the paint a little clearer. Brewer and Smoove's 1-10 returns to mind. Jason Terry was a respectable 2-5, and Pablo Prigioni was 3-5, and both of those feel like repeatable performances.

Trevor Ariza had his best offensive game of the playoffs so far, with 17 points on 7-13 shooting. His 2-6 from the three-point line seems like the best we're going to get from him.

Free-throw shooting aside, Dwight Howard still came out to play. When the Rockets came within one point early in the fourth quarter, it was because Dwight blocked a couple of shots and got some offense in the low post. He finished with 22 points, 10 rebounds and 5 blocks.

Let's just self-flagellate a minute longer. Austin Rivers had 17 points and 4 steals (I know). Matt Barnes had 20 points and 4 steals. Blake Griffin had a triple-double, and he might average one once the series is over. Jamal Crawford had 21 points with some borderline unfair buckets at the best possible times for the Clippers.

The Rockets are in serious trouble. The Clippers aren't getting any worse, and they now have all the confidence in the world and home court advantage the rest of the way.  But that's the bad news.

It may be hard to imagine now, but the Rockets are professionals, and the series isn't over. I would bet my life that the Rockets will come out with far more intensity and focus for Game 2 on Wednesday night, because it would be downright impossible to come out with less.

They're going to need to play with pride right out of the gate, because if tonight was any indication, they're going to need to earn the crowd's support. Of course, the crowd should be loud from the get-go, but it's clear that that's too much to ask of the Toyota Center.

This game was a disaster, but the Rockets are hardly picking through the rubble. This loss is still just one game out of a best-of-four, and Houston's going to have to prove they belong in the series on Wednesday night.