Rockets 96, Bobcats 83: James Harden scored 21 points despite a stiff back and Francisco Garcia added 19 off the bench as Houston pulled away for a season-opening victory.
Dwight Howard scored 17 points to go with 26 rebounds - matching his career high - in his debut with the Rockets, who overcame a sluggish start. Jeremy Lin added 16 points off the bench and Chandler Parsons scored 10.
Josh McRoberts recorded 15 points to lead Charlotte, which got 14 off the bench from Ramon Sessions and 13 points and eight rebounds from Al Jefferson.
The Rockets trailed by as many as six early but took control with an 11-0 run midway through the second quarter and didn't trail again. McRoberts hit a pair of 3-pointers sandwiching a Bismack Biyombo dunk to pull Charlotte within 57-56 with 5:18 left in the third, but the Bobcats missed their next five shots and didn't get closer than three the rest of the way.
Harden struggled to find a rhythm through the pain but got back on track in the fourth, sparking an 8-0 run with a pair of driving buckets and a lob for Howard as Houston pushed the margin to 80-68.
GAME NOTEBOOK: Rockets G Patrick Beverley took a shot to the ribs in the second quarter and didn't return. He scored five points in 10 minutes. … Bobcats G Gerald Henderson scored 11 points, his 25th consecutive game in double-digits. … Charlotte PF Cody Zeller, the team's first-round draft pick, was 1-for-6 from the field with two points and four rebounds in 16 minutes.