Houston (CBS Houston) – The Toyota Center faithful stood on their feet and gave a strong welcome to their newest hero, Dwight Howard, as he was introduced first in the starting lineup on Opening Night. He sent them home even happier.
The Rockets prized offseason acquisition dominated the backboards with a career high tying 26 rebounds to go along with 17 points and a pair of blocks in leading Houston to a 96-83 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats.
Howard made his presence felt on the very first possession of the game, providing weak side help for Omer Asik and altering the very first shot of the game. He also grabbed the rebound. Howard and Asik would combine for 40 rebounds on the night.
Howard’s mere presence in the paint has the perimeter defenders feeling they can be more aggressive. “Having him back there gives us that confindence that we’ve never had,” forward Chandler Parsons said of Howard. “When we go small, I know I can front, I know I can just battle and have a hand up, understanding Dwight’s gonna come, alter a shot, and get the rebound.”
Howard would get the crowd back on its feet late in the 4th quarter, converting an alley oop pass from James Harden with a two-hand flush, then pointed to Harden to acknowledge his teammate’s court vision.
On a night when the offense struggled to find its rhythm, it was the big man in the middle who came through with rebounding and defense. These were the exact qualities the Rockets hoped to get from Howard when they made him a max contract offer to leave the Lakers and join them. On Opening Night, they got far more than advertised.