Following a 97-88 home loss to the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday night, Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard blasted his team’s effort (or lack thereof) in comments to the media. Per CSN Houston and NBA.com: “Despite having their worst-shooting performance of the season and committing 23 turnovers, Howard was more displeased about the effort he saw from his team. ‘It was piss-poor effort out there on defense and offense,’ Dwight Howard said. ‘The ball stuck tonight and we didn’t move it and we can’t win that way. They just played harder than us. It’s got to be important for guys to come out and play the same way every night. Guys have to come out and play, no matter how many guys are out. (Guys need) to play as hard as you can and trust the next guy to come in and play the same way. They outworked us.’ In the ultra-competitive western conference, where every team but Minnesota (9-10), Sacramento (4-12) and Utah (4-16) is at or above .500, Howard is well-aware that losses like the last two must be avoided. ‘We can’t give away games like this, it’ll come back and bite us later on in the season,’ Howard said. ‘We have to learn that no matter how guys we have out there, shorthanded and all, we have to play the same way. Play hard and play aggressive. We know what we need to do, if we don’t do it, we’re going to continue to lose.’ [...] It is only the second time this season that the Rockets have lost back-to-back games and, at 13-7, they are still the No. 5 seed in the Western Conference. So it was less a blaring alarm bell than a humming undercurrent reminder that a wannabe playoff contender needs more than summertime signings and headlines to turn into the real thing.”