HOUSTON — In early March, as the Rockets came off their second losing streak of the season that lasted more than 10 games, players and coaches knew something had to change.
In three games they had given Damian Lillard a career-high 71 points; watched MVP leader Nikola Jokic score his 100th triple-double of his career; and allowed Memphis to break its eight-game losing streak (before the Grizzlies lost Ja Morant).
The Rockets were faltering quickly and they needed something to boost team morale and spirit. Despite their record, they believed they weren’t what the 11-game losing streak and those personal milestones from opposing players represented.
With back-to-back games against San Antonio, another recovery team going through rough times in the 2022-23 NBA season, the Rockets knew they had to win at least one of those games to salvage some hope for the rest of the NBA league year.
Houston won both games, leading to his first winning streak in over a month. It may not have seemed like much, but that winning feeling helped build morale and chemistry in the dressing room for a team whose oldest starter is 22 years old. That exuberant feeling didn’t last long as they lost their next three games, but those losses were lessons and teachable moments.
They learned that they could compete with teams that were either fighting for playoff placement or making the playoffs. After blowing a late boy against Chicago To open a six-game homestand, Houston knew the road wouldn’t get any easier when the Celtics and Lakers came to town. Most fans didn’t see those games as winnable, but head coach Stephen Silas and his staff knew patience was needed.
“It takes time,” said Silas after Saturday’s loss to Chicago.
The coach’s patience paid off over the next two games as he watched his young tribe of players grow. On Monday, the Rockets defeated the defending Eastern Conference champions and went on with a convincing victory two nights later over understaffed Los Angeles. With the wins, Houston is now 4-3 in the last seven games.
“I see some consistency in our group,” Silas said afterwards 114-110 win on Wednesday from the rockets. “I see a certain consistency in where the ball has to go and when it has to get there and who we are as a team.”
Third-year forward KJ Martin, who has averaged 16.1 points and 5.8 rebounds in his last eight games, has seen the change in himself and his teammates. He knows many of those opponents may have overlooked the Rockets because of their 17-52 record.
“It’s always good to go out and win,” Martin told reporters during his press conference after defeating the Lakers. “The Lakers were trying to get into the playoffs. The Celtics are number two in the East so it’s always good to win against teams, especially playoff teams.”
“They’re trying to make sure they find their place in the playoffs or the play-in game,” Martin said. “The Celtics, if they lose every game for the rest of the year, they’ll still be in the playoffs. You were in the final last year. It was a good competition.”
The road doesn’t get any easier for Houston over the next three games as they prepare to host the New Orleans Pelicans — a team one game away from the play-in tournament — in back-to-back games. From there, they’ll wrap up that six-game homestand with a matchup against the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors, currently ranked sixth in the Western Conference.
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Source : sports.yahoo.com