SALT LAKE CITY (AP) Kobe Bryant might have called Dwight Howard ”soft” but, just like the Lakers, the Utah Jazz had no one who could stop him.
Howard had 22 points and 10 rebounds and the Houston Rockets beat the Jazz 104-93 on Wednesday night to spoil Quin Snyder’s NBA coaching debut.
Howard made six of his first seven shots, many on spin moves for dunks. He was feeling good and it showed.
”My health is pretty good and I am moving better,” Howard said.
James Harden added 18 points and 10 assists, and Trevor Ariza had 20 points for the Rockets, who opened the season Tuesday night in Los Angeles with a 108-90 victory over the Lakers.
Howard said he knows it’s early in the season but he’s not shy about sharing the Rocket’s aim this year.
”I think all of us have one goal and that is to win a championship. You can see that. The way we talk to each other, the way we push each other,” Howard said.
Alec Burks led Utah with 18 points. Derrick Favors added 16, and Trey Burke had 15.
Houston made 14 of 27 3-point attempts and held Utah to 33 percent shooting in the final quarter. The Jazz missed 13 of their first 15 fourth-quarter attempts, and the Rockets broke open the tight game with 18-5 run.
”We set the tone defensively and then everything else took care of itself,” Ariza said. ”We have pretty good basketball IQ out there so that makes it easier, but we’re still learning how each other plays.”
The Rockets led by as many 13 in the third quarter before Burke led a furious Jazz rally that drew them to 75-72 by the end of the period. The Utah point guard had nine points during the surge that had the sellout crowd on its feet.
The Jazz have been tabbed by many experts to finish at the bottom of the Western Conference but their hustle got under the skin of the Rockets at times.
”To simplify it, they got into the lane and they hit some 3s,” Snyder said. ”We have got to be more one them.”
Howard committed six turnovers and fouled out late in the game. He had words for the officials as he slowly made his way to the bench.
Jazz: Utah shot 60 percent in the first half and still trailed 58-50 due to the Rockets’ long-range accuracy. … The Jazz had 13 offensive rebounds, forced 18 turnovers and led 62-44 in points in the paint but was outscored by 33 points on 3-pointers. …Recent signee Joe Ingles had only one practice with Jazz but appeared in the second quarter and missed his only field goal.
Rockets: Papanikolaou, the Greek player in his second NBA game, made his first four 3-point attempts. .. The win marks the first time since 2008-09 that the Rockets have opened with two straight double-digit wins.