Strong win

The Rockets report, brought to you by APG&E: Rockets defeat Celtics in Houston 116-105

If you were to pick two NBA teams that were well equipped to match Houston's micro-ball lineups, it would be the Celtics and the Clippers. With Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, and Gordon Hayward in-hand, the Celtics are built to play Houston's style of play as well, if not better than them. However, tonight Boston never adjusted defensively to match with Houston and it cost them.

"They're trying to force the ball in places where they think they have an advantage," said Mike D'Antoni after the game. "And when you start doing that, if we're active and if we have hands, it makes it easier jumping out in the passing lanes."

D'Antoni is referencing the first quarter where Boston had a few possessions posting up Enes Kanter on P.J. Tucker to no success. Not only did it get the Celtics out of their traditional offense, it tempted them, besides their better judgement, to take an inefficient shot against a really strong post-defender in Tucker.

"I thought they forced us into being stagnant offensively with their physicality, with their switches, and that hurt us," said Brad Stevens. "Then [James] Harden was great in that stretch and [Russell] Westbrook was great. Those guys are two of the best in the world and they showed it again tonight."

Harden and Westbrook combined for 48 points on 22 of 42 shooting from the field, and 27 for 31 from the free throw line.

"Well I think [small ball] helps both of them," said D'Antoni. "I mean, it should. It opens the floor up for them. Both of them are great drivers and finishers, especially Russell [Westbrook]. That's his game."

Star of the game: After a relatively quiet first half (11 points, 3-6 from the field), James Harden absolutely exploded in the third quarter, scoring 19 points on 4 of 7 shooting from the field and 3 of 6 shooting from three-point range. Not only was Harden finally making his threes after an extended cold streak, the Celtics could not keep him off the free throw line (17 of 18). Harden finished with 42 points, 8 rebounds, and 7 assists on 67.9% true shooting.

Honorable mention: Russell Westbrook continued his excellent stretch tallying 36 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 steals on 13 of 23 shooting from the field and 10 of 13 from the free throw line. His scoring become particularly useful down the stretch when Harden was laboring with some sort of lower leg. Westbrook scored 13 points, 4 assists, and 2 rebounds on 5 of 7 shooting from the field in the 4th quarter.

Key moment: Houston's best quarter was definitely the 3rd quarter where they outscored Celtics 31 to 22. They earned that discrepancy when Rockets opened the third quarter with a 10-1 run. Their defensive communication on their switches were fantastic, Harden and Westbrook were taking advantage of the spaced floor on offense, and they looked their best as a unit since the Robert Covington trade.

Up next: The Rockets travel to Golden State to play the Warriors at 9:30 p.m. on Thursday.

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ROCKETS BEAT THUNDER

Rockets blast Thunder in home opener, 124-91

Rockets take care of business in home opener. Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets had an impressive outing versus the Oklahoma City Thunder after an embarrassing loss against the Minnesota Timberwolves Wednesday night. They took care of business at home on Friday night, which was a surprising blowout. The Rockets didn't have to worry about Karl-Anthony Towns screaming at Alperen Sengun or Anthony Edwards telling Coach Silas to call a timeout. Instead, they took their frustrations out on the Thunder (another younger core).

"We responded and bounced back from that game 1," Silas said. "I wouldn't say it was taking anything out. It was just learning and applying to what you learn and that's going to be us this year. Applying to what you learn and getting better and having some games like we had the other day. Veteran teams have some games when they don't play as well they want."

Christian Wood led the way, as he controlled the paint on all aspects with rebounding and putbacks. He played an incredible game after having a poor performance versus the Timberwolves. Silas showed complete trust in allowing Wood to open sets, as he walked the ball down the court several times, and in transition too. Wood became aggressive on the perimeter with open shooting and tough shots, and long strides towards the rim. He finished the night with 31 points and 13 rebounds off 66 percent shooting from the field.

The young core for the Thunder had a tough night defending Wood from every aspect. Hopefully, he keeps this play up. Silas loved the space that was created throughout the game for Wood, which included the help from Eric Gordon, as he continued to play better. Wood continues to develop underneath the Silas umbrella. He had a great feel for off-the-dribble shooting a few times. Wood becomes more dangerous when space is created on the court.

"It allows me to show what I can do. It allows the floor to be open and I can create for other guys and create for myself," Wood said.

As Gordon continues to impress, his teammate Kevin Porter Jr was amazed with his performance.

Gordon looked marvelous inside and outside of the paint, as it looked like a time ripple. The younger guards of the Thunder had a tough time staying in front of Gordon. His size and strength gave the Thunder a huge problem. Gordon is shooting the ball better too, as he is shooting the three-ball at 70 percent this season. Although it's a small sample size, Gordon is trying to overcome his shooting struggles from last year. Gordon finished with 22 points on 66 percent shooting versus the Thunder.

"EG is the biggest part of this squad," Porter said. He comes in and just scores. We need somebody off the bench to do that. He is our guy when me and J come out, it's EG time and he knows that, and comes in aggressive. So much energy on the bench, and we need that every night from him if we want a chance to win."

As I recently mentioned Porter, his facilitation did look better versus the Thunder than the Timberwolves. Porter had nine turnovers in his first game but managed to have two Friday night. He made great slip passes and found open teammates in the open corner. Porter forced a good number of passes versus the Timberwolves but looked more relaxed Friday night. The hardest position in the NBA is the point guard position, but Silas will not allow Porter to fail. Instead of nine turnovers, Porter dished out nine assists. Silas said:

"Bounce back right, going from nine turnovers to nine assists… I think he had two turnovers tonight, which is great. He is making plays for his teammates, and he was really focused."

Porter's shiftiness and creative ability allowed his teammates to get open looks near the rim. He had 18 points because of his step-back threes and first step going towards the basket. Thankfully, Porter is a great ball handler, which confuses defenders on different spots on the court. It's almost like watching a ballerina skate on ice in the Olympics. Hopefully, his confidence continues to get better throughout the year. Porter shot the three-ball at 50 percent tonight. Efficiency is key for Porter this year.

"I'm just trying to let the game slow down," Porter said. "I had a lot of turnovers last game and I just wanted to piggyback and learn from them and learn from some of my forced passes and reads. And sometimes I still force it a little bit. My guys hate that, and sometimes I'm still passive and I'm working on that. When to pass and score and bounce it out, and tonight I felt like I did a good job of that."

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