Harden brilliant as Rockets beat Pistons 105-96
James Harden had 37 points and 12 assists in a stirring debut for Houston, and Carlos Delfino made four 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to lift the Rockets to a 105-96 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday night.
Detroit led 83-72 early in the fourth, but Harden and Delfino brought the Rockets back. Houston acquired Harden on Saturday night in a trade with Oklahoma City and agreed Wednesday on a five-year, $80 million contract extension with him.
The reigning Sixth Man of the Year certainly looked worth it in the season opener. Harden fell just short of his career high of 40 points, and his 12 assists were a career best.
Brandon Knight led Detroit with 15 points.
Jeremy Lin, Houston's other big acquisition, had 12 points and eight assists. The Rockets won without Patrick Patterson, who was out with a left quad strain.
With Houston down 11 points, Harden started the comeback with a 3-pointer, and Greg Smith followed with a dunk. Detroit led only 85-83 after consecutive 3-pointers by Delfino, then a layup by Chandler Parsons tied it.
Smith dunked to put the Rockets ahead 89-87, and he dunked again to make it a four-point game before hobbling off with an apparent injury.
A dunk by Detroit's Jonas Jerebko cut the lead to two, but Delfino made two more 3-pointers to make it 97-89.
Harden pretty much put the game away with a three-point play with 1:27 remaining that put Houston ahead 104-94.
Attendance was announced at 16,646, and there were plenty of empty seats on Halloween. The fans who did turn out saw an entertaining performance by the Pistons that ultimately fell short.
Harden scored 19 points in the first half, but Detroit led 58-55 after a 36-point second quarter.
The Rockets led 65-58 after Harden's two-handed dunk off a nice one-handed bounce pass from Lin. The Pistons looked terrific for the rest of the quarter. They scored 13 straight points -- including consecutive dunks by Greg Monroe and Jason Maxiell -- to take a 71-65 lead.
A 3-pointer by Harden cut the deficit to two, but Detroit ran off another eight straight points and led 79-69 following a basket by Kyle Singler.
It was 81-72 after three quarters.
NOTES: Detroit's Corey Maggette was out with a left calf strain. ... Harden was in the starting lineup. He started only seven games in three seasons in Oklahoma City, as he developed into an indispensable reserve. ... There was a brief delay near the end of the second quarter when what looked like steam began coming out of a generator behind one of the baskets.