AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- James Harden quickly settled into his new role as the Houston Rockets' franchise player. Harden dazzled in his Rockets debut, pouring in 37 points as Houston captured a 105-96 victory over the Detroit Pistons at The Palace of Auburn Hills on Wednesday.
Harden, acquired from Oklahoma City in a blockbuster trade over the weekend, also contributed 12 assists, six rebounds and four steals in the opener for both teams. His new backcourt partner Jeremy Lin, signed away from the New York Knicks as a free agent, had 12 points, eight assists and four steals as Houston erased an 11-point, fourth-quarter deficit.
"I just wanted to get out there and play," said Harden, who agreed to a five-year extension worth a reported $80 million earlier in the day. "All the talking, all the craziness that's happened in the last week, I just wanted to go out there and play basketball. I think I did a good job of helping my teammates and making them feel comfortable."
Harden attempted 25 field goals and made 14, including four 3-pointers. He also went 5-for-6 from the foul line while falling three points shy of his career high in points. He had 40 against Phoenix last season. His assist total was a career best -- he never had more than nine with the Thunder.
"It's a new role for me," he said. "I think everybody knows that. My job is just to do the best I can every day, whether it's in a game, in a practice, whether it's off the court, charity events, whatever the case may be. I just have to be a leader out there."
Lin also showed leadership in his first game with the Rockets, giving them hope for a bright future.
"We were out of sync at times," Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. "In the fourth quarter, we got our guys in the right spots finally and we were able to play basketball. Familiarity is going to help us a great deal, but for the first time together, I'm really happy because we really gutted out that win."
Brandon Knight led five Pistons in double figures with 15 points. Greg Monroe added 14 points but the Pistons were outscored 33-15 in the fourth.
"We played at a really poor pace," Detroit coach Lawrence Frank said. "You go from holding them to a 17-point third quarter, to then the floodgates opening, where we give a 33-point fourth quarter. That's not a recipe to win."
Harden and Lin scored the first 10 points of the second half to give Houston a seven-point lead, but Detroit recovered to take an 81-72 advantage into the fourth quarter. After Tayshaun Prince ended the Rockets' run with a jumper, the Pistons proceeded to score 13 unanswered points. Rookie guard Kim English later hit back-to-back three-pointers to give Detroit some breathing room.
Houston roared right back with a 25-8 run in the fourth quarter, capped by a pair of Carlos Delfino three-pointers, to take a 97-89 lead. The Pistons crept back within four but the Rockets finished them off with an 8-1 spurt which included a Harden three-point play.
"We thought he would have a tougher time figuring out their offense, but they only stuck to a couple of plays the entire game, which helped him out and kept him in a good rhythm," Prince said. "We know what type of player James Harden is. The more he has the ball in his hands, the more dangerous he is."
The Pistons overcame 19 points from Harden and finished the first half on a 12-2 run to take a 58-55 halftime lead.
Prior to that outburst, the Rockets led most of the half, thanks to Harden and Lin. Though the Rockets had five new starters and the Pistons began with the same starting five they had most of last season, Houston got the early jump.
Harden and Lin combined for 13 first-quarter points as the Rockets grabbed a 27-22 lead. Harden got the Rockets' first basket of the second quarter with a three-pointer and later made a fast-break layup and pullup jumper to give his club a 47-44 advantage. When center Omer Asik dunked off a Lin feed, the Rockets led 53-46.
Detroit then asserted itself with most of its starters back on the floor to gain a three-point lead. Greg Monroe posted up and found a cutting Knight for a layup to complete its late run.
NOTES: Houston starting forward Patrick Patterson missed the game with a left quad strain. Pistons backup forward Corey Maggette sat out with a left calf strain. ... Pistons second-year owner Tom Gores reiterated his proclamation from the end of last season that he expected his team to make the playoffs this season. "I came here to win. I‘m a now person," he said. "Last year, we said we're going to get into the playoffs (this season) and I meant it. We need to get into the playoffs." ... Detroit embarks on a six-game West Coast trip and doesn't return to The Palace until Monday, Nov. 12.