The Houston Rockets began life after James Harden by beating local rivals the San Antonio Spurs 109-105.
Franchise star Harden was traded to the Brooklyn Nets in a blockbuster NBA trade earlier in the week.
Sterling Brown took Harden's place at guard and returned 23 points, seven rebounds and three assists, while Christian Wood contributed 27 points and 15 rebounds.
Keldon Johnson top-scored for the home side with a career-high 29 points, with the two teams to meet again on Saturday in San Antonio.
Chris Boucher went big off the bench and had his fifth 20-point game of the season as his Toronto Raptors won 111-108 against the Charlotte Hornets.
The 2019 champions withstood a late charge and notched their third victory of the campaign courtesy of Boucher's 25 points and 10 rebounds.
Ben Simmons stamped his authority with his second triple-double of the season as the Philadelphia 76ers toppled the Miami Heat 125-108.
The Australian had 10 points, the same number of rebounds and 12 assists, with the 24-year-old becoming the third-fastest player in the league to record 30 triple-doubles.
The Portland Trail Blazers lost 111-87 to the Indiana Pacers, with Portland suffering further as starting centre Jusuf Nurkic went down with a broken wrist in the third quarter.
And the Denver Nuggets were 114-104 winners over the Golden State Warriors, with Denver's Nikola Jokic scoring 23 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists.