HOUSTON — On Saturday, Rockets fans inside Toyota Center got a chance to witness something they haven’t experienced from their professional basketball team in almost a full calendar year.
A winning streak.
The Rockets had not won consecutive games at home since their seven-game winning streak in 2021 from late November to early December. During that span, Houston won six games at home.
After back-to-back wins over the Atlanta Hawks and Oklahoma City Thunder, the resurgent Rockets (5-14) are looking to work out some of the early-season crinkles that caused them to lose a lot of close games during a tough schedule to start the 2022-23 season.
Houston found itself down by as much as 16 points midway through Friday’s third quarter before fighting its way back to defeat the Hawks. Saturday, the Rockets jumped out to a big early lead that ballooned to 27 points, leading to an easy win over the Thunder.
The main reason the Rockets were so successful was the concerted effort they put into crashing the glass. In those games, Houston held a distinctive lead in the rebounding category by a 112-69 margin. Houston (46.9) is currently in third place in the NBA behind the Milwaukee Bucks (48.6) and Memphis Grizzlies (48.2) in rebounds.
Houston has outrebounded its opponents by 10-plus boards five times already, matching itstotal from the entire 2021-22 season.
The Rockets’ dominance on the glass is a group effort led by starting center Alperen Sengun, whose 9.7 average per game leads the team. After sitting out Friday due to a groin strain, the second-year player originally selected by the Thunder in the 2021 NBA draft made his presence felt versus his original NBA team. He had 21 points and a career-high 19 rebounds, along with 7 assists, 3 steals, and 2 blocks.
“I was playing bad in the last couple of games, but I focused more today,” Sengun told reporters.
When asked what he learned from being on the sideline, Sengun jokingly responded, “We won yesterday (Friday). I was thinking that I was coming back tomorrow, we have to win again.”
Houston now heads to Denver as they prepare to face the Nuggets on Monday and Wednesday. At 12-7, the Nuggets are second in the win column behind the Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference.
It will be an opportunity for Sengun to face the player he models his game after, Nikola Jokic.
“It makes me happy when they compare me to him because he is my idol,” Sengun said of the matchup. “I am looking forward to playing against him this week. And I’m excited.”