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Successful launch for Dwight Howard

HOUSTON -- Dwight Howard survived a chance encounter in the hallway with Mark Cuban, rampant intentional fouling in the third quarter and several uncomfortable possessions in isolation as the primary defender asked to track Dirk Nowitzki.

The secret song he said he sings in his head at the free throw line did not survive. It was "too fast," Howard said, so he's changing it to something slower for Saturday night's visit to Utah.

Otherwise?

He scraped through Act 1 of his own personal Path Not Taken Week insisting that nothing served up by the Dallas Mavericks really rattled him Friday night. Not the Hack-A-Dwight strategy that coerced an 0-for-6 start at the line for Howard in the second half ... and not Cuban's first real dose of mischief-making for the season in which the Mavericks' pot-stirring owner described Dwight's decision to choose Houston over Dallas in free agency as a "mistake in judgment."

"What would you want him to say?" Howard offered after contributing 13 points and 16 rebounds to the Rockets' 113-105 triumph, which the hosts secured thanks mostly to James Harden's electric 34 points and helped along by Dirk Nowitzki's highly uncharacteristic foul trouble.

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