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21-gun salute to Rockets

Astros wowed by Rockets' win streak

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- The Astros are several hundreds of miles away from Houston, but that doesn't mean they're oblivious to what's going on in their hometown.

Many Astros players live year round in Houston, and while not all of them are avid Rockets fans, even the casual observers are impressed with the local team's 21-game winning streak, the second longest in NBA history.

"I think it's outstanding," Galveston, Texas, native Brandon Backe said. "Not having Yao [Ming] there makes it that much more difficult, but everybody's stepped up, obviously."

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Since Ming's season ended with a left foot injury more than two weeks ago, the Rockets have strung together nine wins and are 12 away from tying the all-time record of 33 straight victories, set by the Lakers in 1971-72.

The plot thickens on Sunday, when the Lakers and Rockets, tied for first place in the Western Conference, meet at the Toyota Center in Houston.

"Ooh boy!" Astros manager Cecil Cooper said. "Remember what [former Rockets coach] Rudy Tomjanovich talked about, 'Clutch City?' This is it. I bet the fans are revved up for that."

Cooper is a loyal Rockets observer. He follows the lead of his daughters, who are big fans of the team and go to several games a year. Cooper has friends within the Rockets organization, including the mascot, and he said he's "tickled" by the team's recent success.

"It's good the team is approaching records," Cooper said. "Hopefully, it'll propel them into the playoffs. There are disappointments every year in the first round, so this gives them a chance to get some momentum and get in there. They've got a chance."

When initially approached about the topic, Houstonian Lance Berkman mostly expressed disinterest. That is, until it was pointed out that the Rockets haven't lost since Jan. 27.

"Come to think of it, that is pretty remarkable," Berkman said.

The Astros have never come close to reaching a winning streak of 21 games, but several players know what it's like to emerge from nowhere to make an improbable run to the playoffs. The 2004 and '05 Astros clubs were written off several times, only to spring to life just as time was about to run out.

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So, in some ways, the Astros can relate to what's happening in Houston.

"It's extremely cool for the city," Backe said. "They're doing something pretty remarkable. I can't imagine us winning 20 games in a row. They're on a roll now. I can only speak for baseball, but I can only imagine that in basketball or any sport for that matter, if you have a team that's gelling together like they are and putting a streak together like this, it's a pretty dangerous team to any opponent out there."

The longest win streak in Major League Baseball history is 26, set by the New York Giants in 1916. The Astros' longest streak is 12, set from Sept. 3-14 in 1999.

Cooper would love for the Astros to string together a Rockets-like streak when the regular season starts at the end of the month, but in truth, he'd settle for a fraction of the Rockets' fortunes.

"I'd take a nice 7-0 to start the season," Cooper said.

Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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