Three things to know: Rebuilding Rockets make history with sixth win in a row

New Orleans Pelicans v Houston Rockets
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Three Things is NBC’s five-days-a-week wrap-up of the night before in the NBA. Check out NBCSports.com every weekday morning to catch up on what you missed the night before plus the rumors, drama, and dunks going that make the NBA great.

1) Rebuilding Rockets make history with sixth win in a row

Break up the Rockets.

The Houston Rockets are looking to develop young players, not win games — if they cared about even the perception of winning as an organization we would see John Wall on the court. From Oct. 24 to Nov. 22, Houston didn’t win a game, 15 losses in a row.

They haven’t lost since.

With their win over the Pelicans on Sunday, the young Rockets have won six in a row. The Rockets have become the first team in NBA — or American professional sports — history to win six in a row after losing 15 in a row.

A couple of veterans — and a couple of guys whose names come up in trade rumors — led the way against New Orleans Sunday. Christian Wood had 23 points and eight rebounds, while guard Eric Gordon added 23 points and five assists.

The Rockets have been doing it with offense — they have a 118 offensive rating during the win streak (much better than the league-worst 95.8 during the losing streak), and they’ve been doing it with balance. This hasn’t been veterans like Wood or Gordon just taking over, and it hasn’t been rookie Jalen Green completely finding his legs yet (he’s been out five games with a strained hamstring) or Alperen Şengün coming into his own (although he’s fun to watch). Against the Pelicans, six different Rockets were in double figures, and it’s like that most nights.

The Rockets aren’t a threat to contend or likely even make the playoffs (even with this streak they are 3.5 games back of the last play-in spot), but give Stephen Silas and his crew some credit. The Rockets are playing better.

2) It takes everything Mitchell, Utah have to hold off Cavaliers for win

Cleveland is a tough out.

Darius Garland is coming into his own as a lead guard and the star of the Cavaliers backcourt. Evan Mobley has been the best rookie this season and shown signs of future superstardom. Veterans like Ricky Rubio, Jarrett Allen, and Lauri Markkanen are making some plays and showing the youngsters the way. This is a 13-11 team sitting seventh in the East this morning.

How though an out are the Cavaliers? It took everything the Jazz have — that is 16-7 Utah with the best offense in the NBA and a top-10 defense — to hang on and beat the Cavaliers on Sunday. It took 35 from Donovan Mitchell.

Rudy Gobert has been playing the best basketball of his career to start the season — 14.9 points a game but on 73.1% shooting, plus a career-high 14.7 rebounds a night (he has a 25.1 rebound rate, he is grabbing a quarter of the available rebounds when he is on the court). Against the Pelicans, Gobert had 20 rebounds and five blocks. He has been a force this season.

Utah made 20 3-pointers and led by 15 in the fourth.

But Cleveland is a tough out. They came back and Garland had a shot at a game-winner, it just didn’t fall.

This time. But the Cavaliers are legit and the Jazz almost found out the hard way.

3) NBA pushing hard for players to get vaccine booster

After Thanksgiving, the NBA ramped up its testing of players for the coronavirus, including more game day testing. Not coincidentally, a lot more players have suddenly gone into the league’s health and safety protocols.

The league wants to avoid the kind of insane disruptions that undermined last season. The hope was the vaccine could provide that, and while the NBA could not mandate players get vaccinated, about 97% of players did, according to the league. The concern is — and a new study by the league suggests — the vaccine’s effectiveness is fading and a booster is needed (which is why the CDC suggested the same things for all Americans.

Now the NBA is adding an “incentive” for players who get the booster, less game-day testing.

We don’t know how many players have gotten the booster shot.

This is from the same playbook the NBA used to get players to take the jab in the first place: unvaccinated players faced game-day testing, could not leave their hotel while on the road, have lockers spaced apart from other players, and have other restrictions.

It worked once, we’ll see if it works again.

Highlight of the Night: Don’t try to jump with John Collins.

Charlotte’s Cody Martin learned that the hard way Sunday night. Martin tried to contest Collins’s backdoor cut and slam and just ended up in the poster.

Collins might be the best in-game dunker in the league right now.

Last night’s scores:

Utah 109, Cleveland 108
Charlotte 130, Atlanta 127
Toronto 102, Washington 90
Houston 118, New Orleans 108