Rockets, Howard can only be hopeful

VIDEO: Dwight Howard injury update.

OAKLAND, Calif. — They played exactly half the 82-game regular season schedule without Dwight Howard and still were able to secure the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference playoffs. So the Rockets will not feel overwhelmed or over matched against if they have to take the court Thursday night without their eight-time All-Star center.

“We hope he plays,” said swingman Corey Brewer. “But if he doesn’t play, we’re just gonna be ready to go.

“Nothing changes. Clint (Capela) is gonna step in. We still have T.J. (Terrence Jones) and Josh (Smith). We still have big guys. We just have to keep playing our game.”

Howard sat out practice to get treatment and put keep ice on his left knee that was injured in the first quarter of Game 1 of the Western Conference. Following an MRI Wednesday morning, Howard’s injury was changed from a bruised to a sprained knee and his status to play in Game 2 is now listed as questionable.

“I won’t know till tomorrow,” Howard said. “(The doctors) just said we’re gonna wait till tomorrow. It’s too early…Today I was in some pretty good pain.

“I’ll just stay positive and not allow it to defeat me. I’ve gone through so much this season that I won’t allow this to stop me from doing what I have to do to stay healthy.

“Don’t allow any doubt or negativity to run through my mind. It’s just a freak incident that happened and I’m not going to allow this to change my energy or my mood toward our goal and the positivity we have brought to this team.”

Howard was hurt when teammate and best friend Smith fell into his left knee midway through the first quarter when the two of them were trying to chase down an offensive rebound. He wound up playing 26 minutes in the game, but never had the ability to move around or jump after the injury.

“It was very painful to play last night and the coaches felt like it was best that I sat out the rest of the game,” said Howard, who was on the bench for virtually the entire fourth quarter. “I tried to play on it, but there was really nothing I could do last night.”

Howard missed 41 games during the regular season with painful swelling in his right knee, including a six-week stretch from February through March after undergoing platelet rich therapy. He’s averaged 16.4 points, 13.8 rebounds and is shooting 58 percent in the playoffs.

If the Rockets are going to have a real chance of taking down the No. 1 seeded Warriors — who are now 5-0 against Houston this season — they’ll need to use superior size and strength to hammer away at the middle of the Golden State defense.

But Howard said if his knee doesn’t feel different than the latter part of Game 1, he won’t have a choice.

“I’d have to sit,” he said. “I have to listen to my body. The most important thing is I’m healthy. Nobody can understand an injury but the person that’s injured. This is gonna be on how I feel. If I feel I can tolerate it and go out there and play on through, then I will. But my career’s the most important thing. I want to do whatever I can to help this team, but I can’t help the team if I’m hurting.

“Thank God we don’t have to play tonight (Wednesday).”

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