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NBA streak reminds Rockies of run

NBA streak reminds Rockies of run

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Sports' biggest current story, the 22-game win streak of basketball's Houston Rockets, snuck up on Rockies right fielder Brad Hawpe.

"I don't watch SportsCenter, so I didn't hear about it until yesterday," Hawpe said Monday morning. "But that's something those players are never going to forget."

Hawpe and others who played for the Rockies in 2007 know a little something about unforgettable runs. Those Rockies seemed headed to also-ran status, but won 14 of their final 15 regular-season games -- including a one-game showdown with the Padres for the National League Wild Card -- and their first seven postseason games. It was the first time in history that a 21-of-22 streak extended into the playoffs.

The Rockets' streak is impressive in its own right. It's the second-longest in NBA history to the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers' 33-game run. It has moved the Rockets from No. 8 in their conference to the No. 1 spot. The Rockies and Rockets might be in different sports, but they're part of a fraternity of hot teams.

Rockies players see similarities and differences between their hot run and that of the Rockets.

"Obviously, their run is incredible, and if they finish and win the division it will break records," said Cory Sullivan, a reserve outfielder last year. "But our back was against the wall. I'm not taking away or detracting from anything they've done, but it felt like ours was under a little bit of pressure.

"You can tell they're relaxed, like we were, and expecting to win."

A key parallel between the clubs is both have accomplished their hot streaks at less than full strength.

The Rockets are without center Yao Ming, out for the season because of surgery for a stress fracture in his left foot. The Rockies lost three of their five starting pitchers -- Aaron Cook, Rodrigo Lopez and Jason Hirsh -- to injuries before the dash to the playoffs began.

"Yao Ming is one of their better players and we had some guys step up -- [pitchers] Franklin Morales and Ubaldo Jimenez," third baseman Garrett Atkins said. "There are definitely some parallels."

With everything going right during the games, it seems the hardest task for the Rockets is putting their success into words. Rockies relief pitcher Brian Fuentes can identify.

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"It wasn't like a goal we had to win 21 out of 22; it just happened," Fuentes said. "I was watching SportsCenter this morning and they were talking to one of the Rockets' players. They were asking him the same questions we got. 'How does it feel?' 'What's it like?' And he said, 'I don't even know. ... I'm still trying to figure it out.' It just fell into place -- for 22 games."

Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki said the Rockies have a similar sense of destiny.

"I was watching them play the Lakers yesterday, and you know when a team is playing with confidence," Tulowitzki said. "They believe they're going to win every time they take the court. It's hard to explain. You just get used to winning. It's just like a team gets used to losing and expecting it. When you win, even when you get down, you believe you're going to come back."

Any talk of streaks brings pleasant, offbeat memories from the Rockies. For Sullivan, it was something as little as getting some lip balm from assistant trainer Scott Gehret after the national anthem before every game. For Hawpe, it was having veteran first baseman Todd Helton as his chauffeur to the park.

"I don't remember why, but he came and picked me up one day, right before the streak, and I hit a home run and we won a game," Hawpe said. "Then he didn't pick me up and we lost. The next day, he picked me up and I hit a home run. Then I picked him up and he hit a game-winning home run against the Dodgers. So we said to each other, 'This is the way it's going to be from now on.'"

Who knows what the Rockets are doing? Who can explain it? All anyone knows is it's working.

As the Rockies can attest, that's all that matters.

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

{"content":["spring_training" ] }
{"content":["spring_training" ] }