ORLANDO, FLORIDA – Dwight Howard received the worst reception of his career last season when he made his initial return to the city that was his NBA home for eight seasons.
This time, for his second trip, he was wearing yet another jersey and met by a similarly hostile crowd. But once again, there was no pity taken on his former team.
James Harden scored 31 points, including 25 in the second half, and the Houston Rockets dug out of a double-digit, first-half hole to beat the Orlando Magic 101-89 on Wednesday night.
Howard added 19 points and 14 rebounds as the Rockets dominated inside, outscoring the Magic 58-26 in the paint.
“I think last year was a little more emotional, coming back here and seeing a lot of old faces,” said Howard, who is now 3-1 against the Magic as a member of the Lakers and Rockets. “But this year, I just wanted to come in and get a good win.”
Houston trailed in the second quarter by as many as 14 points, but battled back to win for the 13th time in 15 outings. The Rockets won at Miami on Tuesday, and will have a chance to beat the Eastern Conference’s top team when they host Indiana on Friday.
“We started off slow, and then from that point on we were pretty solid,” Houston coach Kevin McHale said. “Our defense was really good in the second and third (quarters), and then we got the game back under control.”
Bobcats 109, Pacers 87
In Charlotte, Al Jefferson had 34 points and the Bobcats won their fifth straight at home.
Warriors 108, Celtics 88
In Boston, Klay Thompson and David Lee scored 18 points each and Golden State went a season-high 14 games over .500.
Wizards 104, Jazz 91
In Washington, Trevor Ariza had 26 points, Bradley Beal added 22, and the Wizards took an early lead and never lost it.
Nets 103, Grizzlies 94
In New York, Joe Johnson scored 21 points and Marcus Thornton contributed off the bench with 20.
Bulls 105, Pistons 94
In Auburn Hills, Michigan, D.J. Augustin scored 26 points off the bench and Joakim Noah had a triple-double.
Knicks 118, T-Wolves 106
In Minneapolis, Carmelo Anthony scored 33 points to help New York snap a seven-game losing streak.
Kings 116, Bucks 102
In Milwaukee, Isaiah Thomas had 25 points and six assists to lead Sacramento.
Nuggets 115, Mavericks 110
In Denver, Wilson Chandler scored 21 points, and the Nuggets snapped a six-game skid.
Trail Blazers 102, Hawks 78
In Portland, Nicolas Batum had 14 points and a career-high 18 rebounds and the Trail Blazers routed Atlanta, a loss that marked the end of Hawks guard Kyle Korver’s NBA-record streak of 127 games with a 3-pointer.