James Harden scored 21 points, six other Houston Rockets players scored in double-figures and Kevin McHale's ballclub got off to a 12-0 start and never looked back in a 116-96 victory over the Indiana Pacers in the Philippines on Thursday.
The Pacers made numerous runs during this game, battling back from an early 15-point deficit to cut the Rockets lead to four, but they were never fully able to get over the hump.
Every time Indiana cut into the lead, Houston would go on another spurt to widen the gap. Finally, the Rockets exploded in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Pacers 32-21 en route to a 20-point win.
Paul George led Indiana with 17 points, but his team shot only 39.7 percent from the floor and allowed the Rockets to convert on 54.7 percent of their field-goal attempts in a rather sloppy performance by the Pacers.
George Hill was the Pacers' only source of offense in the first quarter, scoring 10 points in the first 12 minutes of the ballgame while the rest of his ballclub couldn't seem to buy a bucket.
That would be the extent of Hill's offensive output, however, as he would not score a point for the remainder of the contest.
Still, Hill did a solid job overall, compiling five assists and five rebounds to go along with his 10 points.
He did have some problems defensively, which is pretty unusual for him considering Hill is generally a very good perimeter defender. During this game, though, Patrick Beverley's quickness gave him some issues, and he allowed the Rockets point guard to get into the lane numerous times.
Outside of one nice drive to the basket that resulted in an and-1 opportunity (which he did not convert), Lance Stephenson did not do much of anything in this game.
The Cincinnati native finished with four points and didn't record a single rebound, assist, steal or block, and you kind of get the feeling that Frank Vogel is leaning toward eventually starting Danny Granger over Stephenson as Granger gets healthier.
That wouldn't be such a bad thing for Stephenson, though. Having the youngster come off the bench would hide his warts and may go a long way in curbing the amount of mistakes he tends to make over the course of a 48-minute contest.
Perhaps the main thing that Paul George needed to work on this summer was his ball-handling and decision-making. He is sound in just about every area except those two, and his deficiencies in those categories were on display in the first quarter against Houston.
George committed three early turnovers in this game, exhibiting sloppy dribbling and making careless decisions with the ball.
Fortunately, he quickly righted the ship and appeared to find his groove after knocking down a couple of triples in the second quarter.
George would end the contest with 17 points off 7-of-14 shooting. He would only turn the ball over once more after that rather disastrous start, and he was also able to collect four rebounds. He did leave some points at the free-throw line, however, as George shot only 1-of-4 from the charity stripe.
David West was somewhat invisible in the first half, seldom touching the ball and recording only six points and a lone rebound.
West then proceeded to become more assertive in the second half, taking advantage of the young Terrence Jones in the post. He went on to score eight points in the third quarter alone, finally making his presence felt.
West ended with 14 points on an efficient 6-of-11 clip, but the big man was hardly a factor on the glass, finishing with only three rebounds.
For that reason, his overall performance was nothing more than mediocre.
Roy Hibbert got off to a very inauspicious start in this one, turning the ball over four times and picking up three fouls in the first quarter. Dwight Howard gave him some trouble with his quickness, and Hibbert was never able to get into any kind of rhythm early on.
After sitting on the bench for the second period, Hibbert began to find his groove in the third, going to work inside for six points and hauling in four rebounds.
Despite that effort in the third quarter, Hibbert's performance in the first half was so subpar that it's hard to really say many positive things about his outing in the Philippines, especially considering he went only 2-of-6 from the floor.
Hibbert's final stat line? Six points, eight boards, three blocks and four turnovers. Not exactly what we've come to expect of the man that has terrorized the Miami Heat the past two postseasons.
Danny Granger was very tentative to start, and it almost looked like he was afraid to test his knee. He was indecisive with the basketball and did not look confident at all when he put the ball to the floor.
He gained some swagger back in the second quarter, though, as Granger scored six points on six shots and pulled down three rebounds.
Granger stayed aggressive for the rest of the contest, and even if the 2-of-10 shooting clip he finished with is very poor, it's important that he is getting some confidence back.
Of course, Frank Vogel would prefer to see better efficiency out of Granger, but it's a start, and for now, it's most important that Granger gets his legs back underneath him. After all, he played in only five games during the 2012-13 campaign.
Not surprisingly, Granger struggled a bit defensively, particularly when he was matched up with James Harden. It's going to take him a little while to regain the lateral quickness that made him such a dangerous player a couple of years ago.
For Vogel, it's all about baby steps with Granger. Hopefully for the Pacers, Granger gets back to 100 percent at some point this season.
Luis Scola was nothing short of awesome in this one, scoring 10 points, grabbing eight rebounds and making some outstanding passes. His basketball IQ is off the charts, and he is going to add an element to Indiana that it sorely missed last season. He is simply head-and-shoulders above Tyler Hansbrough as a basketball player.
C.J. Watson had a solid effort as well, knocking down a couple of threes and contributing nine points overall.
Orlando Johnson was very aggressive during the playing time he received in the fourth quarter, consistently getting to the cup and finishing with nine points off 4-of-5 shooting. Albeit, it was against the Rockets reserves, but Johnson has proven that he can play on the NBA level, so it was fairly impressive regardless.
Chris Copeland didn't enjoy the same type of success as his bench brethren, shooting only 1-of-7 from the floor and misfiring on all four of his three-point attempts.
Overall, the Pacers' bench looks much better this year than it did last season (thanks much in part to Scola), and one can argue that the lack of a pine was Indy's biggest problem in 2012-13.