The Houston Rockets faced a mountain of adversity as they stepped inside the Little Caesars Arena to play the Detroit Pistons.
They knew for a while that they would be without head coach Stephen Silas as he was scheduled to attend the memorial service of his father, Paul Silas, who passed away in December 2022.
It was also clear that they would be without starting point guard Kevin Porter Jr. who suffered a foot injury earlier this month when the Rockets faced the Sacramento Kings.
They were not expecting to take the court without their two leading scorers, Jalen Green and Alperen Sengun, who were both ruled out before the game.
Down three starters and a coach would make the best teams in the league wonder if they could win a game under those circumstances. Yet, the young Rockets team led by Eric Gordon's season-high 24 points helped Houston defeat Detroit 117-114.
"Ninety-five percent of it was about effort and hustle," said John Lucas II, who filled the head coach's role in Stephen Silas's absences.
Even though coach Lucas could have been talking about the ferocity with which Gordon played or the tenacity of Jabari Smith Jr., Jae'Sean Tate, Josh Christopher, and Usman Garuba displayed throughout the game. In the back of his mind, all he could see was the constant play of forwards K.J. Martin and Tari Eason.
Eason's play off the bench helped the Rockets overcome some rough spots on Saturday. His ten points and seven rebounds helped Houston take a 59-57 lead into halftime after trailing for most of the half against Detroit.
He finished the game with the third double-double of his career with 16 points and ten rebounds. Eason scored ten-plus points in four of the last five games he has played.
"I know basketball is a game of runs," Eason said after the game. "All I needed was time and opportunity just to showcase what I could do. You can go one of two ways. You can give up or you can keep fighting. Tonight showed that a lot of guys in here, including myself, are going to keep fighting."
"Keep fighting" must have been the mantra that teammate K.J. Martin had stuck in his mind against the Pistons.
Starting in his ninth consecutive game, Martin's late-game heroics and his 16 points and ten rebounds helped the Rockets secure their 12th win of the season.
It was his second double-double in the last three games. During his last nine starts, he is averaging 13.5 points and 8.3 rebounds per game while shooting 70.2 percent from the field.
With Houston trailing Detroit 112-109 with 38.5 left to play in the game, coach Lucas called up the perfect play for Martin. Knowing that most of the focus would be on Gordon with the ball in his hands, Martin faked a screen and slipped to the basket, where Gordon hit him in stride. He would get fouled at the rim as the shot fell in to give the Rockets a one-point lead.
Martin missed the free throw, but Jae'Sean Tate retrieved the missed shot. After he attempted to score failed, Martin followed the ball for a putback and gave the Rockets a 113-112 lead.
"I felt like once we got stops and our offense got going, the game opened up," said Martin in his postgame on-court interview.
Houston will have the next three days off before taking on the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday at the Toyota Center.
Stephen Silas hands over coaching duties versus Pistons to attend late father's memorial
Rockets coach Stephen Silas sees Tari Eason as impactful role player
Story originally appeared on Rockets Wire