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Clippers 118, Rockets 107

The SportsXchange

HOUSTON -- Guard Chris Paul and center DeAndre Jordan carried the short-handed Los Angeles Clippers to a 118-107 victory and season series sweep over the Houston Rockets on Saturday night at the Toyota Center.

The Clippers (52-22) lost All-Star forward Blake Griffin to injury early in the first half yet managed to extend their lead over the Rockets (49-23) in the race for the third seed in the Western Conference playoff picture.

Houston fell two games behind the Clippers with the loss and had its season-best 11-game home-court winning streak come to an end.

Paul finished with 30 points and 12 assists and Jordan added 20 points and 12 rebounds. Paul (three steals) and Jordan (six blocks) stood out defensively and forward Matt Barnes added 15 points and 10 rebounds.

Clippers reserve guard Jamal Crawford added 22 points off the bench, including an early burst that opened the fourth quarter and put the Clippers in firm control. Los Angeles improved to 4-0 against Houston this season.

Rockets guard James Harden had 32 points, seven rebounds and six assists -- all in the first quarter. Forward Chandler Parsons totaled 28 points and nine rebounds. Omer Asik, subbing for injured All-Star center Dwight Howard, had 12 points and 11 boards.

Paul delivered a virtuoso performance in the final seven-plus minutes of the first half, starting with a 3-pointer with 7:14 left in the second quarter that cut what was once a 15-point Houston lead to 47-40.

Paul added another 3 just over a minute later to ignite an 11-0 run that pushed the Clippers to a 51-49 lead. Paul scored seven points during that burst and closed the half with 19 points, including 17 in the second quarter.

The Clippers needed those heroics after Griffin departed with back spasms with 5:48 left in the first quarter. With Griffin absent, the Rockets surged to a 33-23 lead by the close of the first quarter, an advantage they stretched to 40-25 when reserve forward Francisco Garcia drilled a trey with 10:36 left in the half.

Houston maintained that 15-point cushion until Crawford nailed a 3 with 9:30 left to key the rally.

NOTES: Clippers F Danny Granger returned to Los Angeles and will miss the remainder of this five-game trip because of a strained left hamstring that, by the tenor of Clippers coach Doc Rivers, sounds quite serious. "He was up-and-down, but you could just feel like he was starting to get his legs under him," Rivers said of Granger. "And now to have this and go home, and who knows when he'll be back. ... With the playoffs coming, it just makes it that much tougher." ... With Rockets G Patrick Beverley (right knee) sidelined indefinitely and Houston C Dwight Howard (left ankle) day to day, the Rockets reshuffled their starting lineup to include Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik, fixtures from last season. "I anticipate Omer going out there rebounding, really anchoring the defense and doing all those things," Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. "And I anticipate Jeremy pushing the pace, attacking and playing like he does." ... Beverley will consult with Dr. James Andrews on Monday to learn the extent of his meniscus tear. Beverley speculated that he could be out as little as 10 days or as many as four weeks.
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