OKLAHOMA CITY -- It was only fitting that the New Orleans Hornets' return to their temporary home will be remembered as a comeback.
Chris Paul scored 14 points and Hilton Armstrong had 10 of his 12 in the second half as the Hornets rallied from a 21-point first-quarter deficit to beat the Houston Rockets 94-92 Tuesday night in the preseason opener for both teams.
"This is a second home to me," Paul said. "Whether we ever play another game here or not, I'll be back for something every summer."
For the Hornets, it was like a road game with home fans. The team was in and out of town because of another exhibition at Indiana on Wednesday night, with little time to pause and reflect.
A crowd of 6,324 was on hand at the Ford Center, where there was a capacity crowd for 30 Hornets games over the past two seasons after their temporary relocation forced by Hurricane Katrina.
They witnessed the return of Peja Stojakovic, who had 13 points on 5-for-13 shooting after missing most of last season after back surgery, and the first time on the court for Yao Ming, Tracy McGrady and the Rockets since their playoff collapse cost coach Jeff Van Gundy his job.
Yao led the Rockets with 13 points in 17½ minutes, and McGrady had four points and three turnovers in 15½ minutes before the lead started evaporating and gave the fans something to cheer about.
"The Hornet emblem made me feel at home, and the crowd was still very boisterous even though it wasn't as big when we were here," Hornets coach Byron Scott said. "I felt comfortable."
Before the game, Scott called it a chance "to say hello and goodbye again to some of the best fans that I've ever been around."
But the Hornets, who were eliminated from the playoff race in the final week each of the last two seasons, needed some time to shake off their offseason rust.
New Orleans missed 17 of its first 19 shots and committed 10 turnovers to trail 30-9 after one quarter. Tyson Chandler scored the first three points of the game, but New Orleans was then outscored 24-6 during a 9½-minute field-goal drought.
"It looked like they were strangers," Scott said.
Houston was able to maintain its lead while McGrady, Yao and Steve Francis remained in the game, but the Hornets started coming back as the Rockets' front-line players remained on the bench in the second half.
Chandler's two free throws capped a run of nine straight points to get New Orleans within 54-49, and the comeback was completed when second-round pick Adam Haluska hit back-to-back jumpers to start the fourth quarter to tie it at 70.
Bobby Jackson drove for a layup to give the Hornets an 81-80 lead midway through the fourth quarter, and the lead stretched to six after Armstrong's left-handed layup and a 3-pointer by Stojakovic.
The Rockets closed within 88-87 but had their chance to take the lead thwarted when newcomer Luis Scola was called for an offensive foul.
"We've still got a lot of room for improvement. It showed in the second half," McGrady said. "We can't rely on the starters to carry the team for four quarters. The next group came in there, we've got to sustain, we've got to maintain how well we played in the first half."
In his debut as Rockets coach, Rick Adelman was disgusted with his team's 28 turnovers.
"We had about every turnover you could name in the book," Adelman said.
Haluska scored 12 points, including two free throws with 9.3 seconds left, in his debut and first-round pick Julian Wright had three points and eight rebounds in nine minutes.
"Who was that?" Wright said, surprised at his rebounding total. "I don't really pay attention. I just try to do what's necessary for the team. That's always been my stamp that I feel like I can bring to a team. Whenever I do look at the box, I'm like, 'Really, that happened?' "
Draft picks Aaron Brooks and Carl Landry didn't play for the Rockets, who fired Van Gundy after they had the fourth-best record in the Western Conference but blew a 2-0 lead against Utah in the first round of the playoffs last season.