The Houston Rockets are on a three game winning streak. Everyone reading this already knows that, but I had to type it out just to remind myself that it's actually a thing. For most of this season, this team has been a fledgling mess trying to find an identify on both ends of the floor. They may still end the season with one of the worst records in basketball, but they now have one tool in their belt that they didn't have before: spacing. That's the name of the game and will be a consistent theme for this game breakdown.
1. Christian Wood looks like a dominant offensive big man again
By his standards, Rockets center Christian Wood was having a down year. His points, blocks, steals, and shooting percentages all took a dip from last year. There have been several games this season where his impact has not been felt at all. Wood is easily Houston's most talented player and was someone who was on the brink of contending for an All-Star team before his ankle injury last season so this is a pretty serious indictment.
Ever since he moved back to the center position and got proper floor spacing around him, he's been able to become that monster screen and dive player that looked like a bargain contract last season. For some reason, because Wood is a good three-point shooter, the Rockets were using him primarily as a pick-and-pop, spacing threat. Over Wood's last three games, he's averaging 24.3 points, 15.7 rebounds, 3.0 assists, and 2.3 blocks on 65.5% true shooting.
“Last game, I felt like I was back,” said Wood after the game. “Tonight, I feel like I'm starting to get in that groove I was in last year when I was playing with James Harden. It feels good.”
2. Garrison Mathews is starting to advance past a cool story
Garrison Mathews becoming a fixture in Houston's rotation is something nobody could have seen coming when he was called up from the G League two weeks ago. I wrote about how cool his story was after Houston's last victory over the Hornets. Mathews keeping the momentum going for a third straight game opens the possibility that Houston may have found a gem here. Danuel House Jr. was like this for the Rockets a few years ago and there have been a handful of similar two-way success stories, but it's something to monitor moving forward.
Garrison Mathews (last 3 games):
50.0% shooting from three-point range
3. Jae'Sean Tate remains under-appreciated
It's understandable why the story of the game may be Christian Wood or Garrison Matthews, but Jae'Sean Tate just keeps ticking away and delivering important performances like tonight. Tate had the same plus-minus as Wood tonight (+24) and also chipped in 15 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 assists on 7-of-12 shooting from the field. However, you wouldn't have known had you listened to the broadcast or read about the game on Twitter.
— Salman Ali (@SalmanAliNBA) November 30, 2021
He's somehow managed to remain efficient without being a good three-point shooter and it really stems from his interior scoring. Tate is incredibly strong and manages to bully his way into the paint for jump hooks and tough layups all the time. These high percentage looks keep defenses honest and his shooting efficiency above water. He's just a really good NBA player and one can safely assume that teams have called the Rockets to inquire about his availability.