James Harden continued his extraordinary play since being traded from the Oklahoma City Thunder, scoring 45 points to lead the Houston Rockets to a 109-102 victory over the Atlanta Hawks.
Harden shot 14 of 19 from the field Friday night in Atlanta and also grabbed seven rebounds in the team's second-straight victory to start the season, while backcourt mate Jeremy Lin registered a double-double with 21 points and 10 rebounds and also dished out seven assists.
Lin, who captured global attention with his play last season for the New York Knicks before being signed to a three-year, $25 million deal with the Rockets in the offseason, said Harden has made a "big time" difference since being traded last weekend.
"He frees everybody up. He knows what he's doing. We're thankful that he showed up," Lin said of a player who was the sixth man and third scoring option last year for the Thunder, which reached this year's NBA Finals.
Harden scored 37 points in the Rockets' first game of the season - a 105-96 road win Wednesday night over the Detroit Pistons - and leads all NBA scorers in the early going, averaging 41 points per game.
Elsewhere, in Friday night's marquee matchup, the Knicks got their season off to an excellent start by routing the defending champion Miami Heat 104-84 behind 30 points by star forward Carmelo Anthony.
The victory was an emotional one for the Knicks at Madison Square Garden, which hosted the first sporting event in New York City in the wake of devastating Hurricane Sandy.
"(Friday) was something to give New York a couple hours of some peace," Anthony said. "We gave them a good show out there tonight and that's the least we can do."
The game was played just hours after the New York City Marathon was canceled.
The race begins in Staten Island, the borough hit hardest by Sandy, which claimed 41 lives in the Big Apple.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg's initial determination to press ahead with the marathon brought blistering criticism in the press and social media, with many saying that the electric generators, portable toilets, vehicles and police to be deployed for the race would be better used in the effort to recover from the storm.
In other NBA action, the Los Angeles Lakers' woes continued Friday night as they lost their third consecutive game to start the season.
Struggling with chemistry issues after overhauling their roster in the offseason and hit by an injury to one of their big free-agent signings, point guard Steve Nash, the Lakers lost 105-95 Friday night to their cross-town rivals, the Los Angeles Clippers.
The defeat sent the Lakers - which also signed Dwight Howard, considered the game's best center, in the offseason - to their worst start in 34 years.
Including the preseason, the star-laded Lakers have lost 11 straight games.
In a busy Friday night, the Charlotte Hornets eked out a 90-89 win over the Indiana Pacers, the Orlando Magic defeated the Denver Nuggets 102-89, the Milwaukee Bucks sent the Boston Celtics to an 0-2 start with a 99-88 victory and the Chicago Bulls routed the Cleveland Cavaliers 115-86.
The New Orleans Hornets got their first win, edging the Utah Jazz 88-86, the Minnesota Timberwolves beat the Sacramento Kings 92-80, the Thunder cruised past the Portland Trail Blazers 106-92, the Phoenix Suns topped the Pistons 92-89 and the Memphis Grizzlies knocked off the Golden State Warriors 104-94. EFE