HOUSTON — It's as if the Houston Rockets are immune to the pressure of this postseason, as if they don't know they are supposed to be nothing but playoff fodder for the Lakers on their way to the NBA Finals.
So why should anything be any different for the Rockets now?
On Sunday it's Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals.
It's at Staples Center. It's against the Lakers. It's win or go home.
Pressure? What pressure? The Rockets plan to stay immune.
"We have to be," Coach Rick Adelman said after his team's practice Friday. "We know the experience we had in Game 5 and that wasn't any fun. We have to learn from that and say, 'OK, this game is going to be different.' We know they are going to have even more of an attitude coming into that game.
"The pressure really is getting here. We got here. No one thought we were going to get here. But I know these guys. It's not enough. We have a chance, and now let's see what we can do about it."
The Rockets said they have forgotten about Game 5, when the Lakers trounced them by 40 points at Staples Center.
They proved that by winning Game 6 in Houston on Thursday night.
"I really believe Game 5 was not us," Adelman said. "It's just everything happened negative for us and we have to fight through. As you saw as we approached [Game 6], we have the ability to do that and I think that's what we have to do."
The Rockets won Game 1 at Staples Center, setting the tone for the best-of-seven series that's tied at 3-3.
The Rockets lost the next two games but won Game 4 to even the series.
It became clear to the Lakers then that the Rockets were for real.
"I never feel we're the underdogs," Rockets forward Ron Artest said. "I'll leave that for the people who's commentating the game and the critics. I never see us as underdogs. I don't want to be the underdog. I like being the guy that has all the pressure."
But in reality, the pressure is on the Lakers.
They are the favorites, over the Rockets, over every team in the Western Conference.
The Lakers are the team that is supposed to advance to the conference finals to meet the Denver Nuggets.
"I'd like to think that we'd come out and play loose, take our shots, roll the dice and try to steal a win," forward Shane Battier said.
"I think the later we hang around in the game, the more the pressure will mount on them."
The Rockets will try to do what made them successful in their three wins:
Give the ball to point guard Aaron Brooks and let him operate. Look for Luis Scola down low.
Let Artest work inside and out. Hope that Battier can knock down three-pointers. Put Chuck Hayes on Pau Gasol.
When the Rockets have led after the first quarter, they have won all three games. That's an omen the Rockets hope holds up in Game 7.
"The record says it's 3-3," Artest said. "And right now it looks like it's even."