NBA: Dwight Howard dominates with 26 rebounds in debut for Houston Rockets

Houston Rockets' Dwight Howard (12) goes to the basket over Charlotte Bobcats' Al Jefferson (right) in the second half of an NBA basketball game on Wednesday, Oct 30, 2013, in Houston. Howard lived up to the hype on Wednesday, tying his career high w
Houston Rockets' Dwight Howard (12) goes to the basket over Charlotte Bobcats' Al Jefferson (right) in the second half of an NBA basketball game on Wednesday, Oct 30, 2013, in Houston. Howard lived up to the hype on Wednesday, tying his career high with 26 rebounds to help new team Houston Rockets post a 96-83 NBA season-opening victory over the Charlotte Bobcats. -- PHOTO: AP

HOUSTON (AFP) - Dwight Howard lived up to the hype on Wednesday, tying his career high with 26 rebounds to help new team Houston Rockets post a 96-83 NBA season-opening victory over the Charlotte Bobcats.

Howard, the most coveted free agent of the past off-season, left a tumultuous 2012/13 season with the Los Angeles Lakers behind him when he signed a four-year contract with the Rockets in July.

In addition to dominating on the boards, he contributed 17 points in his first game with his new team. James Harden scored 21 points in the victory, Francisco Garcia added 19 and fellow reserve Jeremy Lin chipped in 16.

Lin, the Asian-American star who joined the Rockets as a free agent prior to last season after sparking a global following with the New York Knicks, downplayed the fact that he lost starting point guard spot to Patrick Beverly.

"You have to look at the game as a whole, like how many minutes you play and what you do when you are on the floor," he said. "I don't think it is a big deal. Everybody wants to start but only five can."

The Rockets - who start the season with high expectations after the acquisition of Howard - saw the Bobcats score the first six points of the game and trailed much of the first quarter.

The score was close through most of the second period, before the Rockets began to pull away.

Two-time defending champions Miami got a jolt on Wednesday, falling 110-114 to lightly-regarded Philadelphia 76ers.

The upset came a night after Miami opened their season by raising their 2012/13 championship banner in a pre-game ceremony then beating the Chicago Bulls 107-95.

But the 76ers jumped all over the Heat from the opening tip-off. starting the game with a 19-0 scoring run. Rookie Michael Carter-Williams impressed in his first career game with nine steals, setting a record for the most in an NBA debut.

Carter-Williams added 22 points, 12 assists, and seven rebounds for the 76ers, who ended a string of 15 straight defeats to the Heat.

LeBron James tallied 25 points and 13 assists for Miami.