MANILA, Philippines (AP) James Harden scored 21 points Thursday to lead the Houston Rockets to a 116-96 win over the Indiana Pacers in the first NBA preseason game in the Philippines.
Omri Casspi added 17 points and 10 rebounds off the bench for Houston, while Paul George led the Pacers with 17 points. Dwight Howard was held to nine points in his second game for the Rockets after struggling with foul trouble, and had four turnovers.
Houston coach Kevin McHale started Patrick Beverly at point guard and Terrence Jones at power forward instead of Jeremy Lin and Donatas Motiejunas, who started in the first preseason game.
“I told them I will change starting lineups every game to see what happens. They’re aware of it,” McHale said. “On this game, I saw D-Mo (Motiejunas) having a great synergy with Omri Casspi and the bench was just energized.”
For Indiana coach Frank Vogel, the Rockets just showed up more ready to play.
“It’s simple: the Rockets played better than us,” he said.
NBA Commissioner David Stern said the basketball-obsessed country is an ideal host for NBA preseason games, and the league may go to other Southeast Asian countries.
He said Filipinos were “rabid fans in a wonderful way.”
“The NBA is always trying to find ways to take advantage of opportunities, particularly in Southeast Asia, and the Philippines lead the way,” Stern said. “But we’re beginning to see activity around like Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore.”
The teams play each other again on Sunday in Taiwan, the ancestral home of Rockets guard Lin.