HOUSTON—Dwight Howard celebrated his 28th birthday in a big way, getting 20 points and 22 rebounds Sunday night to lead the Houston Rockets over the Orlando Magic 98-88.
James Harden scored 27 points and also had 10 assists and eight rebounds for the Rockets. Terrence Jones contributed 16 points and 13 rebounds.
Jones also picked up two big blocks in the third period, including one on Victor Oladipo as time expired to preserve the score 83-61 Houston.
Chandler Parsons, who missed two games because of a sore back, started for Houston and had 18 points.
Glenn Davis scored 18 points in Orlando’s fifth straight loss.
This was Howard’s first game against Orlando in a Rockets uniform, having faced his first former team last season while with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Orlando made Howard the top pick of the 2004 NBA draft. He played for the Magic from 2005-2012, once led the team to the finals and remains Orlando’s all-time leading scorer.
The Magic shot just 27.7 percent (13-for-47) from the field in the first half. But they benefited from at-times lackluster rebounding the Rockets, which led to second-chance points that allowed them to loiter around.
Orlando appeared poised to give the Rockets a tough test, scoring nine straight points to take a 9-2 lead. But the burst was brief.
The Rockets hurt the Magic from the 3-point line, making seven of 11 to erase that run by Orlando in the first quarter. Houston finished 10-for-33 from 3-point range against 8-for-29 for Orlando.
The Magic cut Houston’s lead to 28-25 with a burst of hustle to open the second quarter, capped by a 3 from E’Twaun Moore. That’s as close as Orlando got the rest of the way.
NOTES: The Magic missed C Nikola Vucevic (left ankle) for a third straight game ... Rockets G Jeremy Lin (right knee) missed his sixth game but participated in pregame workouts.