Yao Ming left the game early in the fourth quarter and finished with 17 points, seven rebounds and two blocks for Houston (5-2). Tracy McGrady, playing only his second exhibition game, added 14 points in 33 minutes.
McGrady, who injured his knee early in training camp, played 12 minutes in an Oct. 11 game against Boston.
"I was trying to push myself, I didn't want to come out, I need the work," McGrady said. "It felt pretty good, I wanted to go as long as possible."
Carl Landry scored 12 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter and the Rockets had a 30-17 edge in the period en route to their third straight victory.
Aaron Brooks added 15 points for the Rockets and Luther Head had 13.
In his best game as a professional, second-year center Spencer Hawes had 25 points and 16 rebounds for the Kings (1-7), who lost their sixth straight. Kevin Martin added 22 points, John Salmons had 16 and rookie Jason Thompson 10.
"Anytime you're going against a player like that (Yao), one of the best in the world, you have to be aggressive and can't back down," said Hawes, who made 12 of 19 shots and had six offensive rebounds.
The Rockets had a scare late in the first quarter when Yao blocked a shot, came down with the rebound, then winced in pain as he attempted to head upcourt. He was taken to the locker room, but returned to the game early in the second quarter.
Yao scored eight points in the third quarter to help the Rockets tie it at 80.
The game marked the return of Artest to Sacramento, where he played 2½ seasons before being traded to Houston this summer. Artest received cheers from the sparse crowd of 8,770 at Arco Arena.
"I made sure the focus was on the game, not me," Artest said. "I wasn't really anxious, I was calm and relaxed. But it's always good to come back to Sac."
McGrady isn't coach Rick Adelman's only concern. A left foot injury has prevented Shane Battier from even practicing, and Yao's injured left foot isn't 100 percent. Point guard Rafer Alston missed the game because he was in a Houston courtroom for a DWI trial.
And it won't help that the Rockets start the season playing 10 of their first 15 games on the road. Houston faces visiting Memphis on Wednesday night in its opener.