Howard, Rockets dominate on the glass and upend Charlotte

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Updated: October 31, 2013

Houston, TX (SportsNetwork.com) – Dwight Howard showed why he was the most
coveted free agent of this past offseason, matching a career high with 26
rebounds in his Houston debut to help the Rockets to a 96-83 season-opening
victory over the Charlotte Bobcats at the Toyota Center.

Howard, who inked a four-year, $88 million contract with the Rockets in July
after a prolonged courtship by several suitors, added 17 points in his first
game with his new team. James Harden totaled 21 points in the win, with
Francisco Garcia tallying 19 and fellow reserve Jeremy Lin scoring 16 for
Houston.

Behind Howard’s efforts and a 14-rebound performance from counterpart big man
Omer Asik, the Rockets dominated Charlotte on the glass to the tune of a 54-37
advantage.

“For our team to get out and run we’ve got to clean the boards and not give
teams second chances,” Howard said. “We just have to try to hold them to one
shot every possession and that way we can get out and run. Our defense was
pretty solid tonight.”

Josh McRoberts paced the Bobcats with 15 points and Ramon Sessions had 14 in
the loss. Al Jefferson, Charlotte’s major free-agent pickup over the summer,
finished with 13 points and eight rebounds while playing through a sprained
ankle.

“I was a little rusty and I most definitely am not in game shape and I missed
a lot of shots I would normally make,” Jefferson admitted. “I haven’t played
in two and a half weeks, but it was just good to get back out there.”

Houston’s season of high expectations got off to a rocky start, as the
rebuilding Bobcats scored the game’s first six points and led for much of the
opening quarter as the Rockets shot just 30 percent (6-for-20) for the period.

The contest remained a tight one for much of the second quarter before Houston
began to assert itself over the last six minutes of the frame.

Harden had the first four points of an 11-0 run that staked the Rockets to a
38-29 lead with four minutes left in the half. Shortly afterward, Garcia
drained one of his five baskets from 3-point range to put Houston up by a
41-31 count.

Charlotte managed to close the gap to 45-39 at intermission, with Kemba Walker
notching all 12 of his points prior to the break, and the deficit was cut to
one when McRoberts knocked down a triple with 5:19 left in the third quarter
for a 57-56 game.

Though the Bobcats stayed within striking distance for a good portion of the
second half, Houston finally started to pull away in the final quarter. The
Rockets strung together an 11-2 burst, highlighted by Howard’s thunderous
alley-oop jam off a Harden give, to extend the margin to 80-68 with under six
minutes to play.

Houston maintained a double-digit lead the rest of the way, with Harden
pouring in 13 points on 5-of-5 shooting during the fourth quarter.

Game Notes

Charlotte shot just 36.7 percent from the field for the game, but committed
just eight turnovers to the Rockets’ 19 … The Rockets have now prevailed in
six straight meetings in the series, with the Bobcats having lost nine
straight in Houston since a 101-100 overtime decision at the Toyota Center on
Dec. 18, 2004 … Bobcats rookie Cody Zeller, the fourth overall pick in this
past June’s draft, had just two points on 1-of-6 shooting in his NBA debut …
Guard Ben Gordon did not play for Charlotte due to a right knee injury that
sidelined him for much of the preseason, while forward Terrence Jones
(shoulder) sat out for Houston.