LOS ANGELES -- Center Dwight Howard was back in Los Angeles for the first time as a member of the Houston Rockets on Monday, and an old nemesis made sure his return to Tinseltown was as difficult as possible.
The Los Angeles Clippers, who swept Howard and his Lakers last season, were up to their old tricks against him in a 137-118 victory at sold-out Staples Center.
The Clippers had an explosive, 78-point first half, getting Howard into early foul trouble. Los Angeles built and maintained a double-digit lead.
Shooting guard J.J. Redick led the Clippers with a game-high 26 points. Point guard Chris Paul added 23 points and 17 assists, and Blake Griffin had 18 points and seven rebounds. All five starters reached double digits in points for Los Angeles (3-1).
Howard, who picked up three fouls in the first quarter and played just 6:27 in the first half, finished with 13 points and nine rebounds in 26 minutes.
The Clippers did an effective job neutralizing Rockets shooting guard James Harden, limiting him to 15 points on 6-of-16 shooting, and point guard Jeremy Lin, who had 14 points.
Omri Casspi scored 19 points off the bench for the Rockets (3-1).
The high-flying Clippers were in constant motion and attacking the Rockets from multiple angles. After letting Houston climb within 11 points with 7:28 remaining, Los Angeles quickly increased the advantage to 18 points on a dunk by center DeAndre Jordan, a jumper by Paul and a 3-pointer by guard Jamal Crawford.
Just like that, the Clippers led 121-103 and the onslaught was on.
Crawford had 21 points, making six of 11 3-point attempts.
Jordan added 11 points and nine rebounds for the Clippers, and Jared Dudley had 15 points, including three 3-pointers.
NOTES: The Howard who showed up at Staples Center was different in more ways than the just the Houston uniform he wore. He is healthier than he was when he left the Lakers last summer. "I'm moving a lot better," Howard said at the Rockets' morning shootaround. "I'm going up to get balls I couldn't get last season with rebounds, blocked shots. All that stuff is a lot different. I'm doing a lot of work in the offseason to get my body back right. I feel a lot better." ... The Clippers are the highest scoring team in the NBA, but imagine how much more explosive they'd be if they cut down on their turnovers. Going into Monday's game, they were averaging 16.6 turnovers per game, and that didn't sit well with coach Doc Rivers, who was particularly bothered by turnovers in transition. "We're having live turnovers. Maybe it's just a thing right now," Rivers said. "We don't mind a dead-ball turnover; you can set your defense."