Warriors 132, Rockets 128
Monta Ellis walked out of Golden State's locker room and was immediately greeted by his giggling infant son, who wobbled down the hallway and jumped into his father's arms.
Life is good these days for Ellis, on and off the court.
''I'm in a good mindset,'' Ellis said Wednesday night after matching his career high with 46 points while helping the Warriors beat the Houston Rockets 131-128 in Keith Smart's coaching debut.
''I ain't got no worries, no complaints. Everything is positive, so me, I have to be a positive, be a leader and lead these guys in the right direction.''
He did just that against Houston, despite the Rockets owning a huge advantage at the free throw line.
Ellis' 46 points are the third-most by a Warriors player in a season opener. Only Wilt Chamberlain, who had 48 points in 1961 and 56 in '62, had more.
Ellis, the Warriors' leading scorer last season, went 18 of 24 from the floor and repeatedly made big shots down the stretch whenever the Rockets made a run.
''This young man made a complete turnaround in his life, and once your life is in order, things start to work perfectly for you,'' Smart said. ''The guy has been ready to play since the summer and carried that over when he came into town early.''
Stephen Curry added 25 points and 11 assists, David Lee had 17 points and 15 rebounds, and Dorell Wright scored 15 points to help the Warriors to their first season-opening win since 2005. They also snapped a nine-game losing streak to the Rockets dating to 2007.
Golden State won despite Houston's 52-26 advantage in free throw attempts, beating the Rockets for the first time since Dec. 31, 2007.
Luis Scola had 36 points and 16 rebounds, while Kevin Martin added 28 points for the Rockets, who played without 7-foot-6 center Yao Ming.
''We ran up against a good offensive team and they shot the ball lights out,'' Houston guard Aaron Brooks said. ''We could have played better defense but credit to them, they were feeling it. At times we broke down but they just made shots.''
One of three team captains, Ellis nearly blew it down the stretch, however. He missed three consecutive free throws in the final 35 seconds before sinking two with 10.2 seconds remaining to seal the win and match his career high set against Dallas on Feb. 3 last season.
Houston, which lost to the Los Angeles Lakers 112-110 in its opener on Tuesday, had no answer and missed Yao's presence in the middle.
Yao missed all of last season recovering from foot surgery and is being limited to 24 minutes a game while he continues his rehab. He didn't play against the Warriors because Houston is taking a careful approach and won't play him in back-to-back games.
Yao's replacement, Chuck Hayes, had 16 points, eight rebounds and six assists but it wasn't enough to prevent Houston from falling to 0-2.
''It was just a poor defensive effort,'' Rockets coach Rick Adelman said. ''We scored 128 points and we lose. We have to figure out a way to shore that up.''
A loud and exuberant crowd of 18,000-plus was on hand to celebrate Smart's first NBA coaching victory. The former Golden State assistant took over when the Warriors parted ways with career wins leader Don Nelson last month.
''We've been going through preseason and training camp for this moment right here,'' Ellis said. ''To get the first win to start the season off in the right direction says a lot.''
Not much has changed for Golden State under the new regime. The Warriors are still running, still gunning and still scoring at a breakneck pace.
Ellis had 17 points in the first quarter and 23 in the half, but Houston still led 68-67 at the break.
Scola, who had 18 points in the loss to the Lakers, surpassed that in the first half with 19. He scored eight points over the final 2:42, including a pair of free throws with 3 seconds remaining to give the Rockets a one-point halftime lead.
The Warriors pulled away in the third quarter behind Curry. The second-year guard made a pair of 3-pointers, fed Ellis on a fast break, then added a pair of free throws to give Golden State a 100-93 lead with 1:06 left. He also aggravated the right ankle sprain that kept him out of the Warriors' final preseason game.
Notes: Smart became the 13th coach in Warriors history to win in his first game as head coach. Golden State's 131 points are the most the franchise has scored in a season opener since putting up 162 against Denver on Nov. 2, 1990. ... With Game 1 of the World Series being played across the bay, the Warriors opened the doors to Oracle Arena more than three hours before tip-off and showed the game on the center court scoreboard.