HOUSTON (CBS HOUSTON) – There were issues on both sides of the ball, but either way, the talk of improvement for the Rockets leading into Game Five all centered around one thing – effort.

“They beat us,” Kevin McHale said after Monday’s practice. “I didn’t think, last night, that we competed as hard as we needed to compete.”

The Mavericks had come into Sunday’s Game Four down three games to none. They were on the brink of elimination. The Rockets could’ve closed them out, but instead came away from it with a 121-109 loss.

“We didn’t give our best effort,” said Trevor Ariza, who had a 2-for-10 shooting night on Sunday for seven points. “They’re not just going to lay down. They’re not a team that’s just going to sit down. We should have come with a better effort, which we didn’t. But tomorrow, we have to give maximum effort.”

If anything, Ariza acknowledged that Game Four was a good lesson for the Rockets on what they need to do to finish off the Mavericks.

“That’s always the mindset of a close-out game,” Ariza said. “You have to play twice as hard as the team you’re trying to close out because they don’t want to go home. It’s (potentially) the last game of their season, so we have to bring more energy and more effort.”

So even though the Rockets only lost one game and they’re still up a commanding three games to one, the “effort” part of the equation factored into the sour mood felt around the Rockets facilities.

“Well, (it was) a missed opportunity,” Jason Terry said. “The lack of effort, two games in a row on the defensive end (giving up an average of over 125 points), a lack of urgency, that’s discouraging. Obviously, we want to get these guys out of here (and move on to) the next series. We’ve got a bigger picture in mind. The only way we can get to that bigger picture is to handle our business and we haven’t done that in the last two games. So that’s why you see the looks on our faces. That’s why you’ll see a much more hungry team come tomorrow night.”

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