It was quite the return from injury for Dwight Howard, finishing his comeback game with a double double to help James Harden (triple double) and the Houston Rockets comfortably beat the Denver Nuggets 108-96.
The Rockets didn’t do too badly while Howard was away, winning 8 of the 11 games his knee problems (and maybe legal matters) kept him away from the court. On his return, facing Timofey Mozgov, J.J. Hickson and whatever combination the Nuggets tried in stopping the big man, Howard finished with 26 points on 9-of-11 from the field, adding 10 rebounds and 3 blocks, as the Rockets were winning the game by 35 points when he was on the floor, playing 30 minutes.
James Harden finished with his third career triple double, scoring 24 points on another inefficient shooting performance (7-of-20 from the field), adding 10 rebounds and 10 assists. Donatas Motiejunas, making the most of Terrence Jones and his injury, averaging 10.4 points per game, finished with 25 points, feeling more and more confident in this offense, taking 19 shots (and making 11 of them).
Someone who has dropped recently in scoring and in shooting percentage has been Trevor Ariza. The free agent signing from the Wizards over the offseason has helped turn the Rockets into one of the best defensive teams in the league, but he has been struggling of late in contributing offensively, scoring 13 points on 4-of-14 from the field, going quite cold from beyond the arc, making just three of 11 long range attempts.
I didn’t know what to expect. I just wanted to come there and give my teammates everything I had. I didn’t play a perfect game, but I gave the hardest effort I could for my team.
Howard said he still needs to get on track with his conditioning and his knee is feeling kind of stiff. He had problems from the free throw line as usual, hitting just 8-of-17 attempts. He has fallen to a really miserable 46.3% from the line this season, on track to be the worst of his career. He managed to bounce back from two sub-.500 seasons with a 54.7% success rate (if you can call that successful) last season, his first for the Rockets.
He also got past the 10,000 career rebounds mark, becoming the 35th player in NBA history to hit that mark. He is third among active players, trailing Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett, both with over 14,000 career rebounds. Howard’s average of 12.85 in his career places him 12th on the all-time list and first among active players, with only Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett also averaging in double digits among eligible players.