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Zen And The Art Of NBA Maintenance

Measured response, not overreaction, required following loss to Bulls

CHICAGO - NBA coaches frequently preach a common refrain during the league’s regular season grind: Don’t get too high or too low, because you’re rarely as good or as bad as you might appear on any given night.

In the wake of the Rockets’ dispiriting 111-87 defeat to Chicago Thursday night, those words should be taken to heart – just as they should have been front of mind following Houston’s rousing wins over Miami, Indiana and Portland a week ago. The NBA marathon is a series of peaks and valleys, and overreaction – though inevitable – offers little in the way of help when it comes to navigating those extremes. Such a frayed sense of proportion can lead to hubris when the wins pile up, and unnecessary fragmentation when the doom and gloom of defeat settles in. To be sure, overreaction plays well on talk radio, but in the real life search for resolution and actual improvement, the daily maintenance of equilibrium and an even keeled frame of mind is essential.

The Rockets played one of their poorer games of the season Thursday night while the Bulls produced one of their finest. When two playoff teams are facing off, that combination will usually result in the sort of disparate scores seen on the United Center jumbotron. It happens. The Rockets, in fact, were on the flip side of just such a lopsided affair last week when they demolished Indiana. And just as that night did not crown Houston or doom the Pacers, this evening’s result will have little big picture bearing on the respective fates of the Rockets and Bulls.

Don't believe it? Then take a look at what Chicago’s sage Tom Thibodeau had to say immediately after the game. The very first words out of his mouth: “You can’t get too excited.”

This is a league in which slow, steady progression very often trumps the quick fix. What the Rockets require now is not rash decisions or drastic action, but rather a thoughtful, thorough analysis of what went wrong and why. Film must be broken down and devoured, accountability must be accepted and, more than anything, a redoubling of effort and commitment must be made.

You can’t get too excited. That sentiment is so very true this time of year, whether it is expressed on the heels of a euphoric victory or crushing defeat. The measured response is the best one. Stew or celebrate for a night if you must, then wake up, regain that equilibrium and return to the business of getting better.

Win or lose, that’s the approach that must be taken to survive – and ultimately thrive – in this league. 65 games into the season, the Rockets have shown themselves capable of playing championship-caliber basketball and also producing the occasional clunker. And while Thursday night disappointingly delivered the latter, the Rockets’ response need not waver, nor should it be any different than it was in the aftermath of their bigs wins last week. Don't get too high or too low. You're not as good or as bad as you might think you are right this moment. Just get back to work. Keep improving. And move on to Miami.