SAN ANTONIO -- Coach Mike D'Antoni declared that re-establishing a rhythm is a much bigger priority for the Houston Rockets than resting players for the remainder of the regular season after the team's 11-game win streak ended with a 100-83 rout by the San Antonio Spurs.
The Rockets, who have clinched home-court advantage throughout the playoffs, posted their lowest point total in two seasons under D'Antoni on Sunday. Houston also had its worst field goal percentage (33.8) and fewest assists (12) and 3-pointers made (seven) of the season.
"We just didn't bring it. We just weren't sharp," D'Antoni said. "We haven't been sharp now for about three or four games. It hasn't just been one or two days. That's scary when you rest guys.
"That's why at the end of the year, you've got to be careful taking guys out and just resting them. Everybody wants rest, rest, rest. Well, they've got to play. Otherwise, we're going to lose the advantage of what you worked for for 80 games, and it's scary times for us. You've got to play. You've got to bring it, and you've got to bring it every day. We'll get it back."
Star guard Chris Paul has missed five of the past six games due to minor injuries after sitting out the loss to the Spurs. D'Antoni said the Rockets were "erring on the side of caution" as Paul nurses soreness in his left leg. D'Antoni expressed optimism that Paul would play Tuesday against the Washington Wizards.
MVP front-runner James Harden, center Clint Capela and sixth man Eric Gordon each sat out a game over the past week to rest and nurse minor injuries as the Rockets took advantage of wrapping up the No. 1 seed.
Before getting blown out against the Spurs, the Rockets kept their winning streak going by beating lottery-bound competition in the previous three games, but they readily acknowledge they haven't played up to their standards recently. Houston was especially sloppy in Friday's win over the Phoenix Suns, when the Rockets rallied from a 21-point deficit and needed a Gerald Green buzzer-beater to escape with a win over a team that has the NBA's worst record.
"We've coasted these last few games," said Harden, who is in the midst of a slump, going 37-of-99 from the floor and 6-of-40 from 3-point range in his past five games. "It's time to amp it up a little bit. Just get our minds and our bodies right and get ready to go."
Added forward Trevor Ariza: "We definitely don't want to go into the playoffs playing the way that we've been playing these past few games. ... Just stay greedy. We are competitors. That's what we do. We have to remember that. We have to continue to play hard and continue to build our habits."
Harden shrugged off fatigue as a factor in his recent poor shooting. However, he did not dismiss the idea of getting some more rest down the stretch of the regular season, as Harden has done in the past.
"We're just going to play it game by game and see how it goes," said Harden, who is averaging his fewest minutes since joining the Rockets in 2012. "But for the most part, coach has done a really good job of managing that aspect. For the players, just go out there and compete at a high level."
The Rockets have rested plenty, as far as D'Antoni concerned. He doesn't consider more rest beneficial for Houston as the playoffs near.
"Being rested and playing bad is not going to be a good formula going into the playoffs," D'Antoni said. "That's not good. They have enough rest. How it became vogue just not to play, I don't know."