HOUSTON (AP) — Dwight Howard is happy and healthy in Houston, and coach Kevin McHale is pleased with how his superstar center has played so far this season.
Howard scored 23 points, James Harden and Chandler Parsons each had 19 and the Rockets used a big third-quarter run to pull away for a 109-94 win over the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday night.
"He's just got a nice rhythm," McHale said of Howard. "When he goes fast there is a reason to go fast. When he goes slow, he's setting guys up. Basketball is such a game of rhythm and he's in a nice flow right now."
Howard joined the Rockets in July after one tumultuous season with the Lakers. He said he's feeling good, but has been spending extra time after practice working on his post moves in an attempt to improve.
"I love it here," he said. "It's a great place to be. We're having some early success, but we're not happy with where we're at. We want to continue to get better. We don't want to get satisfied."
The Rockets are 17-9 and in second place in the Southwest Division behind San Antonio.
The Bulls trailed by three with 5½ minutes left in the third before their offense went cold. Houston took advantage of the scoring drought, using a 15-1 spurt to make it 83-66 entering the final period.
"That was tremendous," Harden said. "We've been striking out these last couple of games in closing quarters and Coach has been preaching to us to make sure we go on a little run to close every quarter out. Tonight we did it and we've got to be consistent with that."
Chicago missed six shots and had five turnovers in that decisive stretch, while Omri Casspi scored seven points to power Houston's offense.
The Rockets picked up the victory in the return of McHale, who had missed the previous three games following the death of his mother.
Jimmy Butler's 20 points tied his season high and led the Bulls, who have dropped three in a row and 12 of 15.
"We're losing, so mentally it's tough," Chicago's Joakim Noah said. "When you lose, it's not fun but we have to keep battling. The games keep coming and nobody feels sorry for us and we can't feel sorry for ourselves."