10/24 Game Preview: Celtics at Rockets
Before the Rockets traded James Harden to Brooklyn and initiated their rebuild, Houston signed free agent forward/center Christian Wood with the intent of showcasing his offensive versatility.
While the personnel around Wood has changed, the directive has not. The Rockets are laden with upside in the backcourt and at the wing, but they are at their best when Wood is their focal point offensively.
Wood scored 31 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in the Rockets' 124-91 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder in their home opener on Friday, showcasing his ability to score in the paint, on the drive and from the perimeter in the wire-to-wire win.
Houston will host the Boston Celtics on Sunday in what will provide another opportunity to showcase Wood as their offensive fulcrum. He was 13 of 19 from the field against the Thunder, including 4 of 6 on 3-pointers, which is a testament to his influence when the ball is in his able hands.
"I initiate offense, and when I drive to the basket, I get doubled or a guy usually helps so I have a kick out," Wood said. "Or even when (Kevin Porter Jr.) or Jae'Sean (Tate) attacks, it opens the lane for us to have that spacing.
"It allows me to show what I can do. It allows the floor to be open, and I can create for other guys and can create for myself."
The Celtics, who were following a draining double-overtime road loss to the New York Knicks in their season opener, appeared to run out of gas in the second half of their home opener against the Toronto Raptors.
Boston was outscored 64-36 after the intermission in their 115-83 loss to the Raptors on Friday, a defeat in which the Celtics were booed by their home crowd, and first-year coach Ime Udoka described his team as being "punked" and "outplayed" by the Raptors.
One positive for the Celtics was the return of veteran Al Horford, who missed the opener against the Knicks following a positive COVID-19 test. Horford paired 11 points with 11 rebounds and added four blocked shots in just over 24 minutes, a solid debut in his second stint with Boston.
"He felt fine," Udoka said. "He actually wanted to play longer. We wanted to keep him around that 25-minute (restriction), so when his time was done in the fourth, we pulled him there.
"He was spirited out there. He was one of the guys that was competing harder. His legs may not have been there on some shots that he shot short, but overall, he was fine."
If the first two results offered any indication, the Celtics could use more of Horford's spirit and perhaps his interior presence as well. Boston allowed 58 points in the paint to the Raptors and was outrebounded 60-42.
The Knicks totaled 60 paint points on Boston in the opener, statistics that would seemingly urge Horford to get up to speed quickly to help Boston patch a weakness.
"I'll have to continue to get to where I need to be as far as my wind and all that stuff," Horford said. "But I felt fine. Definitely a little tired at times there, but it was good to be back playing."