HOUSTON (AP) — Dwight Howard was late for the pregame shootaround. So he knew that playing on his 28th birthday, and against his former team, the onus was on him to both atone and deliver.
Done and done.
Howard had 20 points and 22 rebounds Sunday night to lead the Houston Rockets over the Orlando Magic 98-88.
"I just wanted to get the win tonight," Howard said. "I'm just happy our team came out tonight, settled down and played basketball."
Howard became the first Rockets player since Ralph Sampson in 1985-86 to pull down 18 or more rebounds in three straight games.
Despite the positive outcome, don't expect to see Howard showing up late to any more shootarounds anytime soon.
"Bad example," he said. "I shouldn't have done it."
James Harden scored 27 points and also had 10 assists and eight rebounds for the Rockets. Terrence Jones contributed 16 points and 13 rebounds.
Jones scored 10 a busy third quarter when Houston pulled away for good, extending its lead to as many as 22 points. He also blocked five shots, stopping Victor Oladipo as time expired in the third quarter to preserve an 83-61 lead.
Chandler Parsons, who missed two games because of a sore back, started for Houston and had 18 points.
"Our starting four and five had 35 rebounds between them," Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. "James went and got eight rebounds, too. So that was big."
Glenn Davis scored 18 in Orlando's fifth straight loss. Arron Afflalo finished with 16 points and Jameer Nelson added 15.
"We just didn't play well," Davis said. "We can't make shots. It's not about the shots. It's about the defense. Everybody needs to be held accountable in making sure they do what they need to do, or it's going to be a long season."