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Coach of the Month? Ime Udoka makes key adjustments in March for streaking Rockets

Let’s start with the obvious: the Houston Rockets are the NBA’s hottest team, as shown by their current 11-game winning streak. Shooting guard Jalen Green should soon be accepting the Western Conference Player of the Month award for his elite play in March.

With that out of the way, let’s get to another big reason they have blazed through March with a 13-1 record. That reason is the halftime adjustments made by head coach Ime Udoka and his staff, and it could lead to Udoka winning West Coach of the Month honors.

Throughout the month, the coaching staff meticulously took physical and mental notes throughout the first half of the miscues on both ends of the court. Those were relayed to players at halftime, and the team responded and made the necessary adjustments.

For example, on March 19, the Rockets took a slim 3-point lead into halftime against the Wizards at Washington’s Capital One Arena. During the intermission, Udoka sternly told the team that they were not playing to their potential, and they were allowing a team missing key players due to injury to hang around too long.

“My message was, we are playing with the game, messing around with the game,” Udoka said in his postgame comments.

Houston responded by holding the Wizards to 57 second-half points (while scoring 77 themselves) in the 137-114 victory. Earlier this season, the Rockets may not have responded to their head coach’s message, but his words finally hit home at the right time.

Entering Sunday, Houston still has a realistic path to make the Western Conference play-in tournament, as they trail the Golden State Warriors (39-34) by just one game for the final slot.

During Houston’s current 11-game winning streak, they have only been outscored twice in the second half, and both came in games during which the starters were removed early. In seven blowout wins, Houston has averaged a final victory margin of 17.5 points.

On March 6, the Los Angeles Clippers outscored the Rockets after halftime, 78-59, and they went on to win that game. Since then, Houston hasn’t lost a single time. The team’s defense has been the key to its second-half resurgences, with the Rockets holding opponents under 50 points four times; to 25 points or less in a quarter 10 times; and 20 points or less in a quarter five times.

Udoka’s messages will need to continue resonating over the season’s final two weeks, since Houston is scheduled to face six teams vying for postseason spots in the West over its final nine games.

Story originally appeared on Rockets Wire