Carl Landry had 19 points to lead the Rockets, who are beginning the season without the cornerstones of their team. Yao Ming is out for the season after his broken left foot was slow healing, and Tracy McGrady is recovering from microfracture surgery on his left knee, and is not expect back until midseason.
Ron Artest, the other big name from last season's team, left for the Lakers in the offseason. Taking his place is Ariza, who helped Los Angeles win the championship.
"I thought it was a good game for us," Rockets coach Rick Adelman said. "If we're going to be successful, we have to have ball movement and player movement, as that is what this is all about."
Rookie Chase Budinger had 15 points, Luis Scola 13 and Aaron Brooks 12 as the Rockets looked to the young players to step up.
"I had a lot of butterflies in my stomach coming into the game," Budinger said. "I was able to knock down my first shot and it gave me a little confidence."
The Spurs' Manu Ginobili saw his first action since a stress fracture in his right leg discovered on April 5 sidelined him last season. He played 13 minutes, scoring four points on 1-for-4 shooting.
"It felt good to be back on the court," Ginobili said. "I have been taking more 3-pointers than attacking, but the rest will come with time."
Ginobili went through an up-and-down season, appearing in only 44 games before his injury. His only basket Tuesday was a 3-pointer, but the electric Argentine guard's mere presence on the court drew loud applause from the fans.
"Well, you don't have to be a coach to appreciate Manu on the court," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "Everybody enjoys watching him play. He's a great player and to have him back is wonderful for all of us."
San Antonio played without Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, and Michael Finley, who were sitting in street clothes along with new teammates Theo Ratliff and Antonio McDyess.
Richard Jefferson, who acquired in a four-player deal during the summer, only had six points, while free agent guard Keith Bogans was held scoreless in his debut.
Parker, who sprained his right ankle while playing for the French national team this summer, is being ushered into the season slowly by Popovich, along with Duncan. The perennial All-Star forward was bothered by sore knees all last season, and reported to camp 15 pounds lighter.
Rookie DeJuan Blair took advantage of the playing time with 16 points and 19 rebounds in 22 minutes.
"I did what coach Pop asked of me and that was to rebound," said the rookie forward from Pittsburgh. "Everything else came after that. I just have to put forth a lot of energy and rebound."
His layup tied it at 71 in the third quarter after the Spurs trailed by 16 points in the first half, but the Rockets quickly pulled away to take an 88-75 lead.
Houston also played without starter Shane Battier.