Christian Wood leads Rockets past Thunder securing 3rd straight win

Rockets win again! Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets have played incredible in the last three games. Although it’s only a three-game winning streak, the Rockets are making huge adjustments with their spacing and composure. Oklahoma City Thunder coach, Mark Daigneault, says the Rockets are playing with a certain “swag.”

“They are swagging out right now offensively,” said Daigneault. “The last time we played this team they were in the midst of a long losing streak and you could feel that in the game. They have beaten two quality opponents and shot the ball well.”

Christian Wood and Kevin Porter Jr. have led the Rockets with a sense of urgency. Both have dominated at their position. Coach Silas, who was on a suspected hot seat, moved Wood to the center position and took Daniel Theis out of the rotation, which seems to be working. Wood is spacing the floor better in pick-and-roll, transition, and from the perimeter for contested and open shots. Defensively, Wood has been a problem for other teams. In three games, Wood is averaging 24.3 points, 15.7 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks per contest. He has been a busy man for the Rockets. As I dive deeper into the analytics, Wood’s has 123.1 offensive and 103.2 defensive rating too.

Hopefully, Wood maintains his great play, as the Rockets face off against three more easier opponents, including the Thunder again before they play the Milwaukee Bucks and Brooklyn Nets. Wood is becoming more dominant and confident on the court. His aggression has allowed him to attack the rim off the dribble and create his own shot. Wood is even shooting the three-ball better at 58.3 percent off 4.0 attempts per contest the last three games. He made a huge shot versus the Charlotte Hornets Saturday night.

"He’s playing with a lot more energy than he was prior, and that is a majority of it,” Silas said. “He’s just trying really hard right now, but being able to roll to the rim consistently time after time..."

Wood is showing his versatility on defense, which is guarding 1-5 on the court. Watching him guard players off switches is impressive after he struggled last season. He has protected the rim well too, as that can worry opposing coaches inside the paint. Wood put in some extra time on his footwork and quickness during the offseason, and it’s paying off for the Rockets defensively. He is starting to look like the main anchor on defense.

Porter has taken more command of the offense, as Silas looks pleased. He is calling the offensive sets instead of looking for Silas for the next play. Porter is seeing the court better instead of turning the ball over. He had to sit a few games due to a minor injury but was able to observe while out.

“Just be me. I’ve been trying to be something I’m not,” Porter said. “After that injury, I was able to observe and I came back out and played my game.”

Although he is averaging 4.7 per turnovers per contest, Porter is becoming a better point guard by putting his teammates in position to score. Porter is understanding when to score and pass, which isn’t an easy task at point guard. He is starting to look more aggressive on offense because of the ability to get to the free throw line or attacking the basket. In the last three games, Porter is averaging 16.0 points, 10.7 assists, and 8 rebounds per contest. Versus the Thunder, Porter recorded his first triple-double, which the ending of getting his last rebound was hilarious. Josh Christopher yelled ‘GET THE BALL, GET THE BALL’, as the crowd cheered for Porter. Porter has posted a 120.5 offensive rating the last three games.

Porter is becoming a better on ball defender, as he clamped LaMelo Ball on the last possession in OT Saturday night. He even intercepted the pass on a pick-and-roll action ran by the Thunder. Porter is defending all the elements on defense. Porter is averaging 1.7 steals per game while playing defense. No room is given when Porter plays on-ball defense. Porter has a 103.3 defensive rating, which makes sense because of the tenacity shown.

Another bright spot shown on the Rockets offense is Garrison Mathews. He was picked up on waivers from the Washington Wizards before the season started. The Rockets assigned him to the Rio Grande Vipers before calling him up to play. So far, Mathews has looked like a professional sniper for the Rockets. He is a reliable kick-out shooter with a green light to shoot a highly contested shot. He doesn’t need much space to take a shot anywhere on the court and is a very patient shooter. Mathews is fixing the Rockets problems when it comes to needed outside shooting along with Armoni Brooks.

While starting for the Rockets and getting 32.7 minutes within this three-game winning streak, Mathews is averaging 17.0 points per game and shooting the three-ball at 50 percent and has a 77.1 true shooting and 76.7 effective field goal percentage. He deserves to be a starter because he defends, cuts to the basket, and drives. His versatility is huge for the Rockets. Mathews continues to blossom and makes shooting look effortless, as he is an incredible catch-and-shoot weapon at 58.3 percent the last three games.

The Rockets should go on a seven-game winning streak along with the three games they won already. When Jalen Green comes back, they should become more dangerous because of the rhythm that is being built with the team.

Up next: The Rockets face the Thunder again on Wednesday night.

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Critical takeaways from Rockets' 105-103 loss to Warriors

Rockets fall short against Warriors. Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

This wasn't the typical Houston Rockets-Golden St. Warriors game when Mike D' Antoni and Steve Kerr were having an offensive battle of wits. James Harden, who plays for the Brooklyn Nets, was nowhere in sight for the Rockets Friday night. Although the Rockets are in rebuild mode, it was still an interesting game. The intensity was high throughout the entire game. Emotions between Stephen Silas and Kerr were heavy, as they were yelling and jumping up-and-down along the sidelines.

A series of runs and back-and-forth scoring gave a slight reminder of the old rivalry between the Warriors and Rockets. Steph Curry was having a tough game, but with 5.1 seconds left, he was able to create great separation from a step back and drained an incredible midrange shot over Kevin Porter Jr. It was heartbreaking because Porter played great defense on Curry throughout the entire game, with Curry only making 6 out of 22 shots. Porter had a tremendous first-half defensively on Curry and recorded an 88.9 defensive rating. Porter had a good feel for guarding Curry, he didn't allow himself to switch away from him. He anticipated passing lanes and ripped Curry a couple of times.

Besides Porter playing great defense, the Rockets played good as a whole. They finished with 10 steals. Their main technique was to switch everything on defense, and Kenyon Martin Jr. and Christian Wood did a good job. It's never easy staying in front of Curry and Jordan Poole, but if they could hold their ground for five seconds, it became possible. Porter did a great job at times by communicating on defense, so he could tell Jalen Green and Eric Gordon when to switch.

And speaking of Green--- he had a strange night offensively. He went 0-11 from the field but made two great plays in the fourth quarter. Instead of Silas keeping Green on the bench because of his cold hand, he kept him in the game for learning purposes. Green made an outstanding play on Curry at the 2:52 mark in the 4th quarter. Before that, he missed a shot from three but fought hard for the rebound, then found a cutting Wood towards the rim. Green might of struggled, but the effort was there.

This was a tough loss for the Rockets, but they are steadily improving. The Rockets are 3-5 in their last five games.

Up next: The Rockets face the Spurs on Tuesday night.

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