Auburn Hills, MI – James Harden made sure his debut with the Houston Rockets would be one to remember.
The newly acquired guard posted a game-high 37 points and 12 assists to lead the new-look Rockets to a 105-96 win over the Detroit Pistons in the regular season opener for both teams.
Harden, who was dealt to the Rockets in a multi-player deal on Saturday, also had six rebounds, four steals and knocked down 4-of-10 3-pointers.
Earlier on Wednesday, Harden signed a multi-year contract extension with Houston. Although terms of the deal were not disclosed, the deal is reportedly going to pay Harden nearly $80 million over five years.
"With all the craziness that's happened in the past week, I just wanted to get out there and play basketball," Harden said. "I think I did a good job of incorporating my teammates...and I think we're going to grow as a team."
Harden's new backcourt mate, Jeremy Lin, had 12 points and eight assists while Carlos Delfino added 15 points and seven boards off the bench for Houston, which has beaten the Pistons in seven of its last eight matchups.
Brandon Knight paced Detroit with 15 points and Greg Monroe added 14 points and eight rebounds for the Pistons, who look to bounce back from a woeful 25-41 finish last season.
The Rockets trailed by as many as 11 in the fourth quarter, but used a 19-4 rally to take an 91-87 lead with six minutes to play.
The run was sparked by a pair of 3-pointers from Harden and Delfino that bookended a highlight-reel fastbreak, which Greg Smith finished with a dunk.
It was all Houston from that point, which outscored the Pistons 14-9 the rest of the way to seal up its first win of the season.
"The floodgates opened. To give up a (33)-point fourth quarter is not a recipe to win," Pistons head coach Lawrence Frank said.
The Rockets built a 27-22 lead after one quarter. Harden led the way with seven points and four assists over the first 12 minutes. The newly acquired guard was 3-for-6 from the field and Lin added six points in the quarter.
Detroit, however, outscored Houston 36-28 in the second to take a 58-55 lead into the break. Kyle Singler paced the Pistons throughout the quarter, netting eight points including 2-for-2 from the 3-point line. Detroit closed the half on a 12-2 run to take its first lead since the 7:15 mark in the first quarter.
Poor shooting plagued the Rockets in the third quarter, finishing just 30 percent from the field, and a dreadful 2-for-9 from beyond-the-arc. Harden, however, was able to keep Houston close enough after scoring 12 points in the quarter.
Harden fell three points shy of tying a career-high with 40 points ... Delfino made 5-of-6 3-pointers ... Omer Asik had 12 points and nine rebounds for Houston ... Rookie Kim English scored eight points in just under 14 minutes for Detroit ... The Pistons have won 12 of the last 16 games at home against the Rockets.