Rockets 98, Clippers 81

MoiseKapenda Bower, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

HOUSTON -- With production supplied from sources routine and rare, the Houston Rockets snapped a five-game series losing streak to the Los Angeles Clippers with a 98-81 win on Saturday night at Toyota Center.
Even without the NBA's fifth-leading scorer, James Harden, who was sidelined by a sore right foot, Houston (40-33) mustered the offensive gumption needed to subdue the weary Clippers (49-25), who played their fourth game in five nights. Houston's defense also was sensational, starting with the second-quarter surge to the lead.
Contributions came from all corners, from center Omer Asik (13 points, 12 rebounds) posting his 30th double-double to reserve swingman Francisco Garcia scoring 15 points after watching four of the five previous games from the bench. Rockets guard Jeremy Lin added 15 points, and forward Chandler Parsons had 15 points and nine rebounds.
The Clippers needed a victory to set franchise records for overall wins and road victories, but the Rockets erased all doubt with a 30-point third quarter, turning a five-point halftime lead into a 85-63 advantage going into the fourth quarter.
After suffering agonizingly close losses to Dallas and San Antonio on their trek through the Southwest Division, the Clippers failed to muster the energy to stifle the galvanized Rockets.
Chris Paul led the Clippers with 19 points and seven assists, Jamal Crawford added 15 points off the bench and Blake Griffin chipped in 12 points.
Los Angeles rode early 5-of-6 shooting from 3-point range, plus seven Houston turnovers, to a one-point lead entering the second quarter. But the Clippers followed with eight second-quarter turnovers and Garcia poured in 13 points on 4-of-5 shooting from the field in the quarter.
The Rockets' momentum extended into the third quarter, with one particular play emblematic of their effort without Harden and his 26-point average.
With Houston up 16, Rockets reserve guard Patrick Beverley snatched an offensive rebound from the hands of Clippers backup center Ryan Hollins, turning an 11-inch height disadvantage into an assist on Parsons' subsequent 3-pointer with 1:24 left. Houston never looked back.
NOTES: Harden, the NBA's fifth-leading scorer at 26 points per game, missed his third game this season and first since Feb. 13 -- coincidentally enough, also against the Clippers -- with a sore right foot. Harden has played through an injury first suffered Feb. 12 at Golden State, but a cortisone shot weeks ago did not fully eliminate the symptoms. "It's one of those things that hopefully gets better soon. Needless to say, we need him," Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. "It's been bothering him off and on ... we'll see where it goes." James Anderson replaced Harden in the starting lineup as one of two changes implemented by McHale. Greg Smith made his first career start, replacing foul-prone rookie Donatas Motiejunas at forward. ... Entering play Saturday night, the Clippers had dropped five consecutive games against Western Conference playoff contenders, including four such games in March. "We haven't been able to capitalize on a couple good efforts, but that's the NBA," Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said. "It comes down to execution. It comes down to concentration and being mentally tough in the biggest moments. As tough as it is to lose those tough games, it's also something that you can't look back on other than to do a little bit better the next time we're in those positions."

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