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Christian Wood’s real goal after 31-point, 14-rebound outburst vs. Thunder

Christian Wood, Rockets Thunder

The Houston Rockets opened up the Toyota Center with an unexpected, but dominating performance against the Oklahoma City Thunder. After an 18-point beatdown in Minnesota, Houston came into the game determined to make a new first impression. Led by Christian Wood, the Rockets did just that.

“I think we learned from the last game as far as the readiness that we need to have, the energy from the start, and how we need to play together,” said Stephen Silas after the game. “Being home and having a crowd and all that stuff definitely helps. So we didn’t like the way we played in game one and we rectified it, which is hopefully a sign of things to come as far as taking adversity and learning from it and then doing better.”

After getting blown out 32 to 21 in the first quarter against the Timberwolves, Houston placed a greater emphasis on starting the game off with the proper intensity. They flipped the script in Houston, outscoring the Thunder 34 to 21 on the backs of gritty defense from Jae’Sean Tate and hot three-point shooting that never dissipated (44.7% for the game).

“Some of it is guys kind of figuring out how to play together,” said Silas. “You know, it’s hard when you have Tate, Wood, and Theis out there to initially kind of figure out where you’re supposed to be. Slowly but surely, it seems like they’re figuring it out a little bit as far as Christian and his spacing, [Tate] and his spacing – and he was great tonight.”

Tate was indeed stellar on Friday, finishing the game with 16 points and 14 rebounds on 6-of-9 shooting from the field. Eric Gordon and Kevin Porter Jr. also played well, tallying a combined 40 points on 14-of-30 shooting from the field. However, the standout performer was clearly Christian Wood, who had one of the best performances of his career, racking up 31 points, 14 rebounds, 3 blocks, and 1 steal on an incredible 79.7% true shooting. Wood was a blistering 4-of-6 from downtown, which really opened up the floor for Houston’s offense.

“He needs to be a spacer,” said Silas. “He needs to be inside-out. He needs to be able to play in the paint as far as his rebounding and playing in the [dunker’s spot] — I think we got a drive and a lob dunk to him. But also spacing the floor and shooting his three is gonna be very important. Because you look at that lineup, we don’t have a bunch of shooters in the starting group. He is one who shot 37% last year. We need his three point shooting, his ability to stretch the defense and open gaps for our drivers.”

Christian Wood has very publicly taken on the team leader role for the Rockets and took the loss in Minnesota particularly hard.

“I knew I have to come out with energy,” said Wood. “I have to bring it and I did that. And everybody as a team knew we had to bring it today. Before the game, everybody was fired up and that’s really what you love to see.”

Wood was pretty nonchalant for what should be a career night, but it’s because he set a high bar for himself in the preseason. He strives to make nights like Friday to be the norm, not stand-out.

“Better than it was last year,” said Christian Wood when asked about his confidence. “I wanted to be one of the best bigs in this league and I have to go out every night and show that.”

In a league that’s increasing in standout big men, this is a pretty tall order. Wood is capable, but he’s going to have to play as well defensively most nights as he did tonight. He seems to have a healthy mentality about not letting this game get to his head.

“It’s a long season so every game’s not going to be perfect,” said Wood. “We can’t we can’t let this game affect us. We have a lot of games left. We have a big game coming up on Sunday and we just have to forget about this one and move on to the next one.”