Yao Ming had 21 points and 15 rebounds, and the Rockets led from start to finish in an easy 110-93 victory Saturday night.
Now comes the tough finish—Houston plays five of its last eight games on the road, starting Wednesday in Phoenix. The Rockets also play the Los Angeles Lakers, Orlando, Portland, New Orleans and Dallas before the end of the regular season.
“That will be a very good test for us,” Yao said. “How tough can we be in the playoffs? Obviously, a playoff team is much tougher than tonight.”
Eric Gordon scored 17 and Chris Kaman had 16 points for the Clippers, who played without Baron Davis (calf strain/ulcers) and leading rebounder Marcus Camby (sprained left ankle). Los Angeles has lost 11 of its last 12 road games.
Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy complimented Houston’s team defense before the game, and the Rockets held Los Angeles to 39 percent shooting through the first three quarters. Dunleavy likes the Rockets’ chances in the postseason.
“Houston gives themselves a chance to win every night because they are good defensively and they rebound,” Dunleavy said. “They have a good mix of players and it should be a good formula for playoff basketball.”
The Rockets still see plenty of room for improvement. They used the extra practice time this week to work on their half-court offense and Battier didn’t think Houston was good enough on Saturday night, despite shooting 52 percent with 22 assists.
“It’s a work in progress,” Battier said. “We tried some of the things tonight, but it wasn’t that sharp. We scored anyway, but against the playoff teams, we’re really going to have to tighten up our execution.”
Yao scored nine points in the first five minutes, dominating the 7-foot Kaman down low. The Rockets also grabbed eight of the game’s first nine rebounds and led 17-6 midway through the first quarter.
Houston scored on virtually every possession in the quarter and led 30-17. Ron Artest sank a 3-pointer early in the second quarter to push the lead to 16. Artest scored 13 in the game.
“We got up early and played solid from there on out,” Artest said.
The Rockets led 52-36 when Clippers guard Mike Taylor went down after knocking knees with Yao. Taylor, a 6-foot-2 rookie out of Iowa State, left with a bone bruise in his right knee. X-rays were negative.
Houston led 57-36 at halftime after shooting 52 percent from the field and outrebounding Los Angeles 29-15 in the first half. The Clippers were called for a technical foul early in the third quarter when DeAndre Jordan tried to enter the game without checking in at the scorer’s table.
The Rockets’ lead swelled over 20 in the third quarter and Battier’s 3-pointer in the last minute put them up 85-59, their largest lead. Yao, Artest and Brooks sat out the last 10 minutes of the game and the Rockets cruised to their 15th victory in their last 17 home games.
Houston coach Rick Adelman warned his team not to overlook the Clippers, and the Rockets seemed focused from the opening tip.
“I was just pleased with the effort we came out with tonight, ready to play after a little break,” Adelman said. “We got a win we had to get before we go out on the road again.”
Yao has 34 double-doubles this season and three in his last five games. … The fronts of Houston’s uniforms read “Los Rockets,” on “Latin Night” at the Toyota Center. … The Rockets reached 30 home wins for the second straight season. Houston had not had 30 home victories in back-to-back years since the 1992-93 and 93-94 seasons. … Davis said he’s dealt with ulcers before in his NBA career. He’s on medication now, but was hoping to return for the Clippers’ next game, against New Orleans on Wednesday. “It comes and goes. Once it calms down, I’ll be able to play,” Davis said. “You don’t want to take that chance out there (on the court) because the pain, spasms, it gets bad when my adrenalin gets pumping.”