Dwight Howard's first game in Houston went about as well as could be expected.
The Rockets' prize offseason acquisition will face a stiffer test when the Dallas Mavericks come to town Friday night.
Howard scored 17 points on 8-of-14 shooting and pulled down a career high-tying 26 rebounds Wednesday in a 96-83 win over Charlotte.
"I didn't want to put any pressure on myself," Howard said. "I just wanted to go out there and play and have fun and get back to being who I am as a player. I think when you focus too much on that and what everybody else is saying that's when you don't play like you want to play."
The Rockets (1-0) are hoping Howard will inject even more enthusiasm into the team and its fan base than James Harden and Jeremy Lin did last year. Harden scored a game-high 21 points against the Bobcats, while Lin added 16 off the bench.
Starting point guard Patrick Beverley left the game in the second quarter with bruised ribs and did not return. Beverley and Harden, who is working through a sore wrist and back, did not practice Thursday.
Reserve Francisco Garcia went 5 of 9 from long range and scored 19 points, his highest total for Houston since being acquired in a six-player deal with Sacramento on Feb. 21.
Omer Asik started at center and finished with 14 rebounds as coach Kevin McHale elected to go with a big starting five. The move paid off, with the Rockets limiting the Bobcats to 36.7 percent shooting (33 of 90) and owning the glass by a 54-37 margin.
"With our big lineup, we have so much size and we're going to be such a good rebounding team," small forward Chandler Parsons told the team's official website. "Like I've said all along, when you have Dwight and Omer up there that gives wings the confidence to be aggressive and be more active while getting in passing lanes."
Howard's last game with 26 rebounds came Jan. 6 as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers. He did it for the first time with Orlando on April 15, 2006.
"I really was trying to get 30," Howard said. "I said coming in tonight that I wanted to get 30 rebounds. I was upset that I didn't do it, but I'll try the next game."
A 26-rebound night - much less 30 - might be hard to come by against a team that shot 57.1 percent in its first game.
The Mavericks (1-0) went 44 of 77 from the floor, including 11 of 24 from 3-point range, in a 118-109 season-opening win over Atlanta on Wednesday.
They seek their first 2-0 start since 2004-05.
Monta Ellis scored 32 on 11-of-17 shooting with eight assists in his Mavs debut after signing a three-year deal in the offseason.
"He was great and his shot looked comfortable," Dirk Nowitzki told the team's official website. "When they were playing up on him in the pick-and-roll he just beat both guys around and got to the basket. If they collapsed on him, he found the right guy and found the shooters. I mean, that's what he has to do for us all season long and that's being aggressive."
Nowitzki, who missed last year's opener while recovering from knee surgery, added 24 points. He was 8 of 14 from the floor and 4 of 6 from 3-point range.
The Mavericks have won 10 of 11 against the Rockets dating to Nov. 29, 2010, including three of four last season.
During his one season with the Lakers in 2012-13, Howard went 3-1 against Dallas, averaging 16.8 points and 10.5 rebounds.
The Associated Press News Service
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