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As wins mount, Stephen Silas sees young Rockets building consistency

HOUSTON — In early March, when the Rockets were coming off their second losing streak of the season lasting more than 10 games, players and coaches knew that something had to change.

In a three-game span, they had given a career-high 71 points to Damian Lillard; watched MVP frontrunner Nikola Jokic get his 100th triple-double of his career; and allowed Memphis to break its eight-game road losing streak (before the Grizzlies had lost Ja Morant).

The Rockets were reeling fast, and they needed something to help lift the morale and spirit of the team. Despite their record, they believed they were not what the 11-game losing streak and those personal milestones by opposing players portrayed them to be.

With back-to-back games versus San Antonio, another rebuilding team that is going through rough times in the 2022-23 NBA season, the Rockets knew they needed to win at least one of those games to salvage some hope for the remainder of the league year.

Houston went on to win both games, leading to its first winning streak in over a month. It may not have seemed like much, but that winning feeling helped build some morale and chemistry in the locker room for a team whose oldest starter is 22 years old. That exuberating feeling didn’t last long, as they dropped their next three games, but those losses were learning lessons and teachable moments.

They learned that they could compete with teams fighting for either playoff positioning or to make the playoffs. After blowing a late lad versus Chicago to open a six-game homestand, Houston knew the road would not get easier with the Celtics and Lakers coming to town. Most fans did not see those as winnable games, but head coach Stephen Silas and his staff knew they needed patience.

“It takes time,” Silas said after Saturday’s loss to Chicago.

The coach’s patience paid off over the next two games, as he watched his young core of players grow up. On Monday, the Rockets defeated defending Eastern Conference champions, and they followed that up with a convincing win over short-handed Los Angeles two nights later. With the wins, Houston is now 4-3 in its last seven games.

“I am seeing some consistency amongst our group,” Silas said after Wednesday’s 114-110 win by the Rockets. “I am seeing some consistency, as far as where the ball needs to get and when it needs to get there, and who we are as a team.”

Third-year forward KJ Martin, who is averaging 16.1 points and 5.8 rebounds over his last eight games, has witnessed the change in himself and his teammates. He knows many of these opponents may have overlooked the Rockets because of their 17-52 record.

“It is always good to go out and win,” Martin told reporters during his postgame press conference after defeating the Lakers. “The Lakers have been rolling, trying to get into the playoffs. The Celtics are the number two team in the East, so it is always good to get wins against teams, especially playoff teams.”

“They’re trying to make sure they get their seeding in the playoffs or the play-in game,” Martin said. “The Celtics, if they lose every game for the rest of the year, they are still going to be in the playoffs. They went to the Finals last year. It was good competition.”

The road doesn’t get any easier for Houston over its next three games as they prepare to host the New Orleans Pelicans — a team that is one game out of the play-in tournament — in back-to-back games. From there, they will wrap up this six-game homestand with a matchup against the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors, who are currently sixth in the Western Conference standings.

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Story originally appeared on Rockets Wire