The last day of the regular season gave fans a bit of a taste of what awaits them in the playoffs; there were a few games that had major seeding implications, imploring teams to play with a playoff-like intensity. But for the Houston Rockets, they were locked in a game with no stakes against a Los Angeles Clippers team that had already clinched the four-seed in the Western Conference. This then paved the way for Boban Marjanovic, the former Clipper, to emerge as the people's champion.

With only 4:44 left in the fourth quarter, the Rockets were leading the Clippers by only eight points, 105-97, when Marjanovic was sent to the free-throw line with a chance to extend the lead to double-digits. The lovable Serbian big man missed the first free throw, prompting a wave of thunderous applause from a raucous Arena crowd that was clamoring for free chicken, which they could only get when an opposing player misses two free throws in the final frame.

Boban Marjanovic, sensing the crowd's pleas for free food, deliberately missed his second attempt from the charity stripe, much to the delight of everyone who was in attendance. In fact, even both the Clippers and Rockets' benches loved this act of heroism from the veteran center.

Boban Marjanovic, a true fan favorite

In 12 minutes off the bench in what ended up being a 116-105 win for the Rockets over the Clippers, Boban Marjanovic put up 12 points and eight rebounds. He made some big plays to help secure a victory that allows Houston to finish with 41 wins on the season, a major improvement from their record during the previous three seasons.

But missing the free throw that gave fans free chicken wasn't the only highlight of Marjanovic's night. Late in the game, the Rockets center, who stands at 7'4, faced Clippers guard Xavier Moon, who is listed at a generous 6'0, in a jumpball.

As fate would have it, it was Moon who ended up winning the tip, prompting yet another chorus of cheers from a Arena crowd that was very much emotionally invested in what was a meaningless game in the grand scheme of things.

That was a clean jumpball win from Xavier Moon, and a wonderful moment for the Clippers' fourth-string guard even though it came at the expense of a former member of the franchise.

Boban Marjanovic played 56 games across one-and-a-half seasons with the Clippers, and it's clear that the fans still love the gentle giant. After all, the last thing that may be uniting a very tribalistic NBA fanbase these days is their love for the Rockets veteran.

Rockets to come back stronger next season

The Rockets' season may have ended on April 14, but that is not something they should hang their heads over. The Western Conference is a bloodbath, and it's already something to be proud of that they at least made the teams above them sweat. But come October 2024, there might be another leap awaiting the Rockets.

To end the season, Jalen Green emerged as a dynamic, efficient scorer who can attack the rim with reckless abandon not to mention stress defenses with his pull-up game. He looked like a much-improved player, and it looks like the improvements he made are here to stay.

Meanwhile, Amen Thompson seized the opportunity that the injury to Alperen Sengun opened up; he became a double-double monster, a dominant presence on the glass and a blur in transition. Sengun's return only serves to make everyone around him even more dangerous. Jabari Smith Jr. had his moments, while Fred VanVleet and Dillon Brooks have done what they were brought in to do — bring a culture of hard-nosed, two-way play.

In a loaded Western Conference, the Rockets are on the upswing, making an already congested playoff picture even more crowded.