Why all signs point to a turning of the tide for the Houston Rockets

This young Rockets team has become really fun to watch. Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images.

As of this writing, the Rockets have a two-game win streak going. To most, that statement would seem like a joke. A two-game winning streak isn’t much of a streak per se. However, when you’re talking about a team that hasn’t sniffed a playoff series in a few years and has drafted in the lottery lately, two games are two games. A streak is a streak. I’m choosing positivity. Winning four of their last six games and beating playoff teams in those four wins has me feeling good about where this team is headed.

The best part in all of this? The guys the team is picking to build around are stepping up. Jalen Green is starting to come into his own. He’s been feeling more and more comfortable on both ends of the floor. Hearing him talk about taking on the other team’s best perimeter players, but still upping his scoring, is music to my ears. His shooting percentages are down by a hair, but he’s averaging four more points this season over last season. Four more points on three more shots per game isn’t ideal, but I can see him putting things together. No sophomore slump over here.

Jabari Smith Jr is also becoming a guy this team can rely upon. His outside shooting has gotten better. I think it has more to do with him knowing his role and building chemistry with his teammates. Smith Jr is going to be the stretch four, the previous general manager never could get his hands on to pair with the dude with the beard. His defense and rebounding need to improve, but that’ll come with time. He’s a rookie, so we’re hoping he doesn’t have a sophomore slump either.

Kevin Porter Jr is doing his best to be a point guard. He’s naturally a shooting guard, so being a table setter and playmaker isn’t his forte. That said, he’s still got work to do. The organization obviously thinks highly of him by giving him an extension. They see what they want in him and think he’s one of the building blocks. Personally, I think he’s better suited to be a scorer, but they must like the potential in him as a point. Having a second guy that can get his own shot in a pinch is crucial, and KPJ provides them with just that.

Head coach Stephen Silas was in some rough waters not too long ago. Fans were calling for his head. Despite his seat being hot, he’s managed to steady the ship. They were 5-16 and going nowhere fast. Winning four of their last six games and beating playoff teams has changed the tune. Now people are seeing what I’ve always seen: Silas is the man for this job. He’s a proven young player developer. The phrase “let him cook” has never been more appropriate when it comes to what Silas is doing. Not only is he manning the ship of this turnaround (this season and overall), but he’s doing so in the midst of losing his Hall of Fame father, Paul Silas. He’s continuing his dad’s legacy by being a standup guy, and a coach his players believe in and play hard for.

Coach Silas has taken all the criticism in stride and so have his players. This team has gone from a laughingstock to a fun team to watch. No longer do I dread watching and turn games off. Now, I watch more intently. They’re more entertaining because they’re cleaning up mistakes and can be competitive in more of the games instead of being blown out the water. I’ve even seen them make comebacks, win or lose, in games they would’ve never had a chance in because of the way they play. They’re turning the corner. Add a couple more pieces, vets and draft picks, and this team will be contending for a playoff spot next season. If they aren’t in the conversation for at least a play-in spot next season, I’ll wear a Cowboys jersey and post a pic online. Book it!

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With the end of the regular season in sight, the Houston Astros host the Kansas City Royals on Friday night, coming off a huge walk-off 2-1 win against the Orioles.

Two players from the finale against Baltimore really stood out for the 'Stros. Jeremy Pena, who had a clutch double late in the game, and Cristian Javier.

Javier struck out 11 batters over 5 innings surrendering only one run, which was exactly what the Astros needed in possibly the most important game of the regular season.

Both Pena and Javier were critical pieces to the Astros title in 2022, and it looks like they're rounding into form at just the right time.

Javier's struggles have caused many to question who would be the team's third starter in the postseason, behind Framber Valdez and Justin Verlander. Let's put this to bed right now, it's Javier.

This should be everything you need to know. Let's start with Hunter Brown. Brown has given up 5 earned runs or more in 4 of his last 7 starts.

How about JP France? France has surrendered 5 or more earned runs in 3 of his last 5 games.

However, Cristian Javier hasn't allowed 5 or more runs in a start since July 3. Javier may only give you 5 innings, but that's actually pretty common for starters in the playoffs. Teams typically remove their starters before the third time through the order.

Prime Time Pena

While the power hasn't been there for Pena this year, he is swinging the bat much better of late. Over his last 30 games, he's hitting .325 while slugging .453. Pena may only have 10 bombs on the year, but he's getting on base and hitting plenty of doubles.

If these two can contribute at a similar level to last postseason, the sky is the limit for the 2023 Astros.

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