Dwight Howard after his first game as Rocket
Before Dwight Howard made his eagerly anticipated Houston Rockets debut in Wednesday night’s season opener and helped his new team to 96-83 victory, he had logged 697 games in his nine year NBA career.
In those 697 games he had corralled 26 rebounds on just two occasions, once last year with the Lakers on Jan. 6, 2013 and the first time on Apr. 15, 2006.
Now he’s done it three times.
He was playing above the rim all game long, and looked very little like the Howard that was in a Los Angeles Lakers uniform last season on his way to grabbing 26 rebounds in his first game as a Houston Rocket.
He had 17 rebounds by halftime and grabbed rebound number 26 with just over four minutes to go as the Rockets finally had the game in hand.
“I was trying to get 30 (rebounds),” Howard said. “That’s what I said coming into tonight, I wanted to get 30.”
Howard was the starting power forward, with Omer Asik starting at center. Asik grabbed 14 rebounds.
“They did a great job. They really rebounded the ball exceptionally well,” head coach Kevin McHale said.
“When you have 40 rebounds between the two of them, 11 offensive (rebounds), that’s something."
“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.
James Harden, who led the Rockets with 21 points, thanks largely to his 13 points on 5-for-5 shooting in the fourth quarter, thought Howard was outstanding.
“He was amazing,” Harden said. “Running the floor and finishing the basketball. You know, doing what he does. He’s a game-changer.”
The team’s defensive performance, unlike its offensive performance, is something that carried over from the preseason.
Houston held Charlotte to 33-of-90 (.367), shooting and 86 points tonight. Over the final three preseason games, Houston also limited its opponents to 86.7 points per game on just 95-of-251 (.378) shooting.
“Being able to have either Omer or Dwight on the floor almost all the time is huge for us,” McHale said. “Having them both out there at times, they really clog the paint and do a good job.”