by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard hands his jersey to a fan as he leaves the court after Sunday's 123-120 overtime loss to the Trail Blazers at Moda Center.The series has been exhilarating. And, for some, exhausting.

“It’s not exhausting if you’re winning, it’s exhausting if you’re losing,” Houston Rockets coach Kevin McHale said Sunday night, after a 123-120 overtime loss at Moda Center put his club in a 3-1 hole to the Trail Blazers.

“We’ve lost two of three (games in overtime). We’ve gotten opportunities. We have to play our game.”

McHale said he is trying to get his “fairly young” players to understand that the playoffs come with a different level of intensity and competition than the regular season.

“The playoffs are a grind,” McHale said. “You’ve got to be built for the grind.”

The Rockets know they easily could have won every game in this NBA Western Conference matchup.

Small forward Chandler Parsons said that gives them hope going into Wednesday's 6:30 p.m. PT Game 5 at Houston.

“A couple plays here and there, and it can all change,” Parsons said.

In Game 4, Houston led by as many as 11 points in the second half. But the Rockets allowed the Blazers to storm back, force OT and eventually win the game.

“We didn’t execute very well,” McHale said. “We held the ball way too often. We just held the ball way too much. We didn’t attack enough, and we had a ton of opportunities.”

Parsons said that in the playoffs, every mistake becomes critical.

“When you get to this point, it’s so competitive in this series and in the West, everything is magnified,” Parsons said. “All the little plays that we’re not doing cost you, and we’re learning the hard way with all those plays. Loose balls, offensive rebounds, defensive breakdowns, we’re not executing and doing what we need to do and at this level.”

Parsons said youth can't be a scapegoat.

“You can’t use that as an excuse,” Parsons said. “We’re here, and anything that happened during the regular season does not matter at all. Everybody starts from scratch, and this is the first time, the first year we’ve been playing together, but that doesn’t matter, either.

"We’re a good team with the potential to be great, we’re just not reaching our ceiling. We’re not reaching our potential because of these little letdowns that we keep having. That’s not an excuse. We should be better than this.”

The biggest, and perhaps the only, bright side McHale could see after Sunday’s loss was that the Rockets still have a chance to crawl back into the series.

“The good news is we get to go back to Houston and do battle on Wednesday,” McHale said.

Parsons said the Rockets will be ready.

“We’re excited to go back to Houston and play at home, and we fully expect to come back here (to Portland for Game 6),” Parsons said.

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