AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) — Dwight Howard vs. Andre Drummond was a mismatch from the start — so it didn't really matter how many key players were missing for the Houston Rockets.
Howard had 35 points and 19 rebounds, leading the short-handed Rockets to a 114-97 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Saturday night. Howard dominated Drummond, Detroit's promising 20-year-old big man, and helped Houston control the game despite the absence of star guard James Harden, who was out with a sprained right ankle.
"I love Andre — the way he's been playing this year," Howard said. "He's 20 years old, and he doesn't back down from any challenge, and I love that about him. He's going to continue to get better."
But Drummond looked overmatched against Howard, who ended up with his highest-scoring game since joining the Rockets in the offseason. Howard went 13 of 18 from the field, while Drummond managed only nine points at the other end.
"At the end I thanked him for the lesson," Drummond said. "He said, 'Any time.'"
The Rockets also were without Jeremy Lin, who has been bothered by back spasms, and they lost guard Patrick Beverley to a fractured right hand.
Josh Smith scored 19 points for the Pistons.
Detroit blew a 20-point lead and allowed 72 points in the second half of Friday's loss to Charlotte. The Pistons again struggled defensively against Houston, especially against Howard.
"Dwight was unbelievable tonight. He completely dominated the game," Houston's Chandler Parsons said. "I'm a big fan of Andre Drummond. I think he's got a lot of potential, and he's a really good player, but I mean, Dwight just dominated tonight."
Howard scored 23 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in the first half. Houston led 61-53 at the half and 86-71 after three quarters.
Drummond's tip-in made it 92-82, but Howard responded by simply backing Drummond down again for two more points. Francisco Garcia's 3-pointer put the Rockets up 97-84.