(SportsNetwork.com) - Dwight Howard's first regular-season game as a member of the Houston Rockets was a smash success.
Will game two be much of the same when his Rockets host the Dallas Mavericks Friday night in a Texas tussle?
Howard was sensational in Wednesday's season-opener against the Charlotte Bobcats, scoring 17 points and matching a career-high with 26 rebounds. The Rockets won 96-83 and Howard left his teammates impressed.
"He was amazing. Running the floor, obviously, rebounding the basketball and taking all my rebounds, finishing the basketball, you know, doing what he does." said James Harden. "He's a game changer."
That may be an understatement.
However, the free-running Rockets were grounded a bit. The ball didn't move as much as head coach Kevin McHale would've liked, but he had to be happy with the pairing of Howard and Omer Asik.
Last season, Asik was a revelation, but he became unhappy when Houston signed Howard and demanded a trade. The Rockets said no, and Asik started alongside Howard and had four points and 14 rebounds of his own.
"For our team to get out and run we've got to clean the boards and not give teams second chances," Howard explained. "We just have to try to hold them to one shot every possession and that way we can get out and run."
Harden led the way with 21 points, although he hurt his back and neck during the contest. Francisco Garcia chipped in 19 points off the bench and Jeremy Lin, who lost his starting job to Patrick Beverley, scored 16. (Lin played 30:56 to just 10:23 for Beverley.)
The Mavericks earned a solid 118-109 home win over the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday.
Monta Ellis, Dallas' big splash in free agency this offseason, had 32 points on 11-for-17 shooting and eight assists.
"I just took what the defense gave me," said Ellis. "If they sagged off, I took one or two dribbles and pulled up. If they stayed with me, then I got past them, attacked the basket and got to the free-throw line. When they closed in I was able to find shooters."
Dirk Nowitzki was solid as always with 24 points, followed by 21 from Vince Carter off the bench. Shawn Marion was the only other Dallas player in double figures with 12 points.
Several of the new additions besides Ellis had big impacts without big stat sheets. Jose Calderon only scored five points, but he dished out 11 assists. Samuel Dalembert netted four points, but grabbed nine rebounds. DeJuan Blair and Wayne Ellington combined for 15 points and eight boards on the second unit.
The Mavericks have won 10 of their last 11 against the Rockets, including four of five in Houston.