Dwight Howard lived up to the hype on Wednesday, tying his career-high 26 rebounds to help Houston post a 96-83 NBA season-opening victory over Charlotte.
Howard, the most coveted free agent of the year, left a tumultuous season with the Los Angeles Lakers behind when he signed a four-year, US$88 million contract with the Rockets in July.
In addition to dominating on the boards, he contributed 17 points in his first game with his new team.
Jeremy Lin chipped in 16 points for Houston, James Harden scored 21 and Francisco Garcia added 19.
Lin, the Taiwanese-American star who joined the Rockets as a free agent prior to last season after sparking a global following with the New York Knicks, downplayed Patrick Beverly getting picked as starting point guard.
“You have to look at the game as a whole, like how many minutes you play and what you do when you are on the floor,” he said. “I don’t think it is a big deal. Everybody wants to start, but only five can.”
The Rockets saw the Bobcats score the first six of the game and trailed much of the first quarter. The score was close through most of the second period, before the Rockets began to pull away.
Elsewhere on the second night of the season, the San Antonio Spurs defeated Memphis 101-94 in a rematch of last year’s Western Conference finals.
Kawhi Leonard led a balanced Spurs attack with 14 points and seven rebounds, as San Antonio outscored Memphis 30-7 in the second quarter and led by as many as 21.
Spurs forward Tim Duncan left the contest early in the third with a chest contusion. He had three points and six rebounds.
Tony Parker, who had 13 points and nine assists, was one of six Spurs in double figures.
Elsewhere in the NBA, Brazilian Anderson Varejao’s tie-breaking jump shot with 28.1 seconds helped lift Cleveland to a 98-94 victory over the Brooklyn Nets in an Eastern Conference clash, while two-time defending champions Miami got a jolt when they fell 114-110 to lightly regarded Philadelphia, who jumped all over the Heat from the opening tip-off with a 19-0 scoring run.
In Minneapolis, Kevin Love had 31 points and 17 rebounds and hit the game-tying three-pointer with 10.2 seconds left to force overtime in Minnesota’s 120-115 win over Orlando.
Ricky Rubio had 13 points, 11 assists and three steals.
Also, on Wednesday it was:
‧ Warriors 125, Lakers 94
‧ Thunder 101, Jazz 98
‧ Raptors 93, Celtics 87
‧ Knicks 90, Bucks 83
‧ Pistons 113, Wizards 102
‧ Pacers 95, Pelicans 90
‧ Mavericks 118, Hawks 109
‧ Suns 104, Trailblazers 91
‧ Kings 90, nuggets 88