With the Rockets hoping that the worst of their late-season meltdown is behind them, knowing that without a rapid and full recovery their fading playoff hopes would be gone, they at least had some reason to believe things have gotten better even as their losing streak stretched to a fourth game.

In the previous three games, they had trailed by 16, 18 and 23 points in the fourth quarter, with the collapse coming to a boil when Rockets coach Kevin McHale and guard and captain Kyle Lowry argued during a timeout in Denver to the point that players and coaches got between them.

With Lowry out of the game and standing outside a huddle, McHale grabbed Lowry and pulled him back toward the group, angering Lowry who shouted back at McHale.