It has been a rough past three seasons, to say the least, for the Houston Rockets and their fans. In the Rockets’ 56-year history, three of the Rockets worst five seasons have been in the last three seasons. Think about that: the Rockets have been around for over five decades and had the worst three-year stretch in franchise history in the previous three seasons.
That is one reason this isn't an ordinary six-game winning streak. Rockets fans have lived through the worst stretch of basketball any Rockets fan has had to deal with. From historically bad losing streaks, players demanding to be traded, players fighting with the organization to the point where they don't play an entire season even though they are healthy, and, of course, players allegedly committing horrific crimes. Rockets fans have seen it all except winning until this season, and there is one big reason why: The Rockets are winning as a complete team.
The Rockets have won by playing team ball on defense and offense
Before the Rockets’ stretch of ineptitude and dysfunction, they were consistently one of the best teams in the NBA. From James Harden joining the team before the 2012-13 season until his abrupt departure, the Rockets were in the playoffs every season and title contenders for several years.
Even with all that success, the Rockets were never known to be a team that had multiple players who could lead the team in scoring. Nine times out of 10, the Rockets’ leading scorer would be Harden, who controlled the entire offense. Dont get me wrong, he did at a high level for a long time, but this Rockets team isn't built to have one superstar, and everyone else picks up the crumbs.
During the Rockets’ current six-game winning streak, they have not had one player score 30 points and have had multiple games where three players had over 20 points. The formula for most winning teams is they have good to great role players and one or two superstars who have a huge 30, 40 or 50-point game, and that's how they secure a victory. The Rockets have been depending on multiple players to score and have not had to rely on one player having a huge scoring game.
Of course, at some point, Jalen Green or Alperen Sengun will have a 30 or 40-point game, but the winning formula for the Rockets has been a balanced attack that keeps the defense off guard. The Rockets are a well-rounded team on offense, and the numbers show that during this winning streak.
During the streak, the Rockets are averaging 26.2 assists and only 11.7 turnovers. This is a complete turnaround for a team that was last in assists per game last season and at the bottom of the league in turnovers. The Rockets, who also have been one of the worst shooting teams in the league, especially behind the arc, are number two in the league during the six-game winning streak. However, they haven't just been playing as a complete team on offense but also defense.
Is their an award for most improved defensive player? Sengun would be top 3 pic.twitter.com/GJFH8gCzl8— Lachard Binkley (@BinkleyHoops) November 13, 2023
Like most major stats, the Rockets have been at the bottom of the league three years running when it comes to defense. During this six-game winning streak, just like on offense, it has been a complete 180. Also, just like on the offensive end, it hasn't just been one player dominating on the defensive end. Some teams have a player who controls the paint on defense, blocking and intimidating opposing players. The Rockets aren't one of those teams. During the winning streak, they rank only 19th in block shots. This team will not be a high shot-blocking team because, surprise, they don't have many shot blockers.
That is what makes their winning streak so impressive. They are winning games mainly because of their team's defense. During the winning streak, the Rockets have been a top-four defense.
2nd in opponent's three-point percentage
3rd in opponent's points per game
4th in defensive rating
9th in opponent's field goal percentage
All while not having a player in the top 60 in total blocks during the winning streak (Jabari Smith at #62). That tells you that multiple players are playing good defense and not leaving their teammates out to dry having to guard multiple players. The Rockets have been sound in their assignments and are not allowing teams to get easy baskets.
All the numbers back up the point of this article about the Rockets being a team of really good players and no superstars (yet). Sengun has been the Rockets best player all season, and if he continues to play at this level, he will eventually be an All-Star, but for now, the Rockets are a well-rounded team that can have different players step up every night. Against the Lakers, it was Jalen Green. Against the Pelicans, and it was Fred VanVleet. In Sunday's win, Alperen Sengun and VanVleet.
That is the biggest reason this winning streak isn't a fluke or just one of those random stretches of winning every team, even bad ones, have during the season. The Rockets don't have anyone going on "the unguardable tour" or putting up 30 or 40-point games to win games. They are winning because they have been a complete team, and that is the Rockets' winning formula for the rest of the season.