HOUSTON – Christian Wood had 31 points and 14 rebounds and Houston beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 124-91 on Friday night in the Rockets’ home opener.
Oklahoma City had few answers for Wood, who went 13 for 19 from the field, including 4 of 6 from the 3-point line. Fourth in Most Improved Player voting last season, he also blocked three shots and had a steal.
“We didn’t really like how we started the first game, so we had an emphasis on starting strong, and we felt like we did that today,” Wood said. “I knew I had to come out with energy, and I had to bring it. Before the game, everybody was fired up, and that’s what you love to see.”
The Rockets looked much better than they did in their 124-106 season-opening loss in Minnesota on Wednesday night.
“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,” Rockets coach Stephen Silas said. “We didn’t like the way that we played in Game 1, and we rectified it, which is hopefully a sign of things to come as far as taking adversity, learning from it and doing better.”
Silas said he called fewer plays Friday night than he did in the opener and was pleased with the results.
Kevin Porter Jr. had 18 points and nine assists. Veteran shooting guard Eric Gordon scored 22 points on 4-of-6 shooting from 3, and Jae’Sean Tate had 16 points, 14 rebounds and five assists.
“The first game, there were a lot of jitters with us being a new group,” Porter said. “We just wanted to turn it around. It’s not about having just one bad game. There are 82 of them. It’s how you respond. We responded great tonight.”
Second-overall draft pick Jalen Green had nine points in his home debut. Porter called Green his “little brother” and talked about their mutual respect for each other. Alperen Sengun, the 16th overall pick, had six points and four rebounds off the bench. Including Green, Sengun, and fellow first-round picks Josh Christopher and Usman Garuba, the Rockets played four 19-year-olds.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Mike Muscala led Oklahoma City with 13 points apiece, and Kenrich Williams scored 12 points off the bench. Oklahoma City shot just 37% from the field and made 9 of 16 free throws.
“Houston came out really aggressive with a great rhythm,” Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said. “That’s a credit to them. You have to use physicality and a team mentality.”
Houston dominated Oklahoma City in the paint, outscoring the Thunder 58-34 and winning the rebounding battle 53-40.
The Rockets jumped to a double-digit lead early and led 33-21 at the end of the first quarter and led 69-47 at halftime.
The Thunder fell to 0-2 after dropping their opener to Utah on Wednesday night.
Thunder: Oklahoma City allowed 21 second-chance points to the Rockets and scored only 11 second-chance points. … Luguentz Dort had eight points on 3-of-9 shooting in 27 minutes.
Rockets: Danuel House Jr. made his season debut after missing the opener for an unspecified personal reason. House had two points and three rebounds in 11 minutes off the bench.
‘LIGHT THE FUSE’
Houston rappers Paul Wall, Bun B and Slim Thug performed their new song “Light The Fuse” as halftime entertainment. The song, which debuted earlier this month, was recorded for the Rockets and makes reference to several players on the team, including Christian Wood, Jalen Green, Jae’Sean Tate and others.
THE DREAM COMES THROUGH
Rockets Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon attempted the ceremonial “First Shot” free throw before tipoff, rattling it in to secure a $5,000 donation from the Rockets to the Clutch City Foundation.
Former Rockets player and Houston native Gerald Green announced his retirement from the NBA on Friday. The 2007 NBA Slam Dunk Contest winner, Green, 35, last played for Houston in the 2018-19 season. He averaged 9.7 points in 658 games. He will join the Rockets’ coaching staff as a player development coach.
HE SAID IT
“I haven’t seen the highlight, but whoa… whoa… that was crazy.” -- Silas on a high-flying missed dunk by Jalen Green where his head was above the rim.
Thunder: Host Philadelphia on Sunday.
Rockets: Host Boston on Sunday.