When the Rockets first got together this season, gathering the night before training camp to share large steaks and greater ambitions, the first goal they agreed upon was simply to earn home-court advantage. Other goals would follow. Many were mentioned that night. But the top of the to-do list was to start the playoffs in Toyota Center.

That goal stuck with them throughout the season, from the roll early in the New Year to the recent stumbles, even through a Sunday night spent watching the Warriors and Trail Blazers play into the final seconds of overtime. But when they arrived in their Toyota Center locker room on Monday, they were given two reminders of why they have chased that first goal for so long.

In the hallway that leads from the dressing room to the players’ lounge, the franchise’s two championship trophies were on display for the first time this season, grabbing attention and silently reminding of why home-court advantage had been deemed so vital that night at Vic and Anthony’s.

It did not come easily, but by the time the Rockets finished off the Spurs 104-98 Monday night to ensure they would begin the playoffs this weekend against the Trail Blazers in Toyota Center, that seemed fitting, too.

As with the season itself, the Rockets started well, surged to a commanding position in the middle before slumping against a team’s backups only to get what they came for in the end.

“That was all our coaching staff said, all (general manager) Daryl Morey said, all we’ve said all year long – we need to get home court,” forward Chandler Parsons said. “Anything can happen from there.”

The Rockets struggled to get it after losses last week to the injury-depleted Nuggets and Timberwolves and a near catastrophe against the dramatically-diminished Pelicans. They were tired of waiting.

“We wanted to come out here and take care of business and not rely on our last game on the road,” guard James Harden said.

That would mean sweeping the Spurs for the first time since 1988-89. Though Kawhi Leonard and Tiago Splitter were given the night off and Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker did not play in the fourth quarter, the Rockets became the fourth team ever to sweep a 60-win team (joining the Thunder this season in sweeping San Antonio).

“If they had won tonight and their next game, I heard they would have set (the franchise) record,” Rockets guard Jeremy Lin said of the Spurs. “That’s a heck of a team. To beat them four times … It doesn’t mean anything, but it’s pretty amazing when you think about it.”

For the Rockets, that required being more like the team that seemed certain to finish at least with the fourth seed before injuries hit and they slumped. They had their starting lineup together for the first time since March 27, when Pat Beverley tore cartilage in his knee and Dwight Howard left with a strained ankle. When the starters were on the floor, the Rockets began to recapture some of the rhythm and execution – along with the intensity and urgency – that had been lacking.