With a dominating 98-81 victory over the defending NBA Champion San Antonio Spurs the Houston Rockets became the first team since the 1985-86 Denver Nuggets to win their first six games by double figures. The win gives Houston a dream start and the league’s best record in the new season and drops San Antonio’s record to 2-2.
Rockets head coach Kevin McHale had his eye on a few matchups, specifically one to get Dwight Howard in the post so he could dominate like the All-Star Center he is. With no Tim Duncan or Tiago Splitter inside, Houston had a decided advantage down low and exploited it from the beginning.
All Howard did was dominate the interior from the opening tip, scoring 32 points and grabbing 16 rebounds. The performance was Howard’s best all-around performance so far this season and gives him something to build around going forward.
”We looked at some stuff (on tape) and we got him in the post,” McHale said. ”I thought (Howard) rolled hard and got some late at the rim. He was really devastating on those high passes. It’s important that he gets in a rhythm and plays. It doesn’t matter who is out there playing for them, he’s got to play well for us.”
When Howard was not scoring inside, fellow All-Star James Harden filled the stat sheet, by adding 20 points, six rebounds and six assists for the Rockets. Harden had his share of points in the paint including a posturizing dunk of San Antonio’s Aron Baynes.
After the game, Harden made it clear how things are a lot easier when having the advantage of having a force like Howard inside.
”It’s tough with the best big man in the league rolling down the paint,” Harden said of Howard. ”He’s a lob target, and you have shooters around him. It’s tough to guard it.”
Houston came into the game holding opponents to 29.1 percent from beyond the arc, a number which will improve after holding the Spurs to 2-for-20 shooting from 3-point range.
San Antonio started 0-for-15 on 3-pointers, before making their first with 7:02 to go in the third quarter, and finished 2 for 20 from beyond the arc. The tough shooting night finished with the defending NBA champs, who trailed by as many as 31, shooting just 34.4 percent from the field.
”It was a bad night tonight and I couldn’t hit a shot,” Tony Parker, who finished with just six points, said. ”Defensively, we did OK, but we never got into an offensive rhythm.”