AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) Dwight Howard vs. Andre Drummond was a mismatch from the start - so it didn't really matter how many key players were missing for the Houston Rockets.
Howard had 35 points and 19 rebounds, leading the short-handed Rockets to a 114-97 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Saturday night. Howard dominated Drummond, Detroit's promising 20-year-old big man, and helped Houston control the game despite the absence of star guard James Harden, who was out with a sprained right ankle.
''I love Andre - the way he's been playing this year,'' Howard said. ''He's 20 years old, and he doesn't back down from any challenge, and I love that about him. He's going to continue to get better.''
But Drummond looked overmatched against Howard, who ended up with his highest-scoring game since joining the Rockets in the offseason. Howard went 13 of 18 from the field, while Drummond managed only nine points at the other end.
''At the end I thanked him for the lesson,'' Drummond said. ''He said, `Any time.'''
The Rockets also were without Jeremy Lin, who has been bothered by back spasms, and they lost guard Patrick Beverley to a fractured right hand.
Josh Smith scored 19 points for the Pistons.
Detroit blew a 20-point lead and allowed 72 points in the second half of Friday's loss to Charlotte. The Pistons again struggled defensively against Houston, especially against Howard.
''Dwight was unbelievable tonight. He completely dominated the game,'' Houston's Chandler Parsons said. ''I'm a big fan of Andre Drummond. I think he's got a lot of potential, and he's a really good player, but I mean, Dwight just dominated tonight.''
Howard scored 23 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in the first half. Houston led 61-53 at the half and 86-71 after three quarters.
Drummond's tip-in made it 92-82, but Howard responded by simply backing Drummond down again for two more points. Francisco Garcia's 3-pointer put the Rockets up 97-84.
The Pistons shot 1 of 12 from 3-point range, and they also missed a number of shots inside from point-blank range. Houston lost Friday at Indiana in a 114-81 rout, but the Rockets overcame all their injury problems against Detroit.
''We just have to go out there and play,'' Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. ''It does not matter how many guys we have. It does not matter who is playing or who is not playing. We just have to go there and play together and play with some toughness. Toughness and togetherness overcomes a lot of stuff.''
Parsons scored 20 points on 9-of-15 shooting for Houston, and Garcia added 16 points starting in place of Harden. Omri Casspi and Aaron Brooks had seven assists each off the bench.
''I thought Aaron had a good game tonight,'' McHale said. ''I thought Patrick really started off well. We are not going to have Patrick for a while, which means that Jeremy is due to come back.''
Brandon Jennings had eight points and 10 assists for Detroit before being ejected with 2:10 to go. After a foul call, a clearly frustrated Jennings tossed the ball away for one technical foul, then earned another for arguing.
''We are still trying to get better, night in and night out,'' Pistons coach Maurice Cheeks said. ''As I said to our players, there will be some nights when we will have good nights, there will be some nights when we have bad nights. Last night and tonight was not our best for sure.''
NOTES: Detroit was averaging an NBA-best 51.5 points in the paint coming into the game, while Houston was third at 49.2. The teams finished tied at 62 in that department Saturday. ... The Rockets began the fourth quarter by going 8 of 9 from the field. ... Howard scored 33 points in a Nov. 20 loss at Dallas. ... Beverley scored 10 points in the first half but didn't play in the second.