After putting up 46 points in the first quarter against the Houston Rockets, the Los Angeles Clippers managed just 60 over the next three quarters. Luckily, it was enough to finish the job on Wednesday night.
The Clippers (38-17) jumped out early and coasted late, beating the Rockets (29-26) 106-96 in a matchup of two of the best offenses the Western Conference has to offer this season.
It was a sloppy game down the stretch that featured a combined 40 turnovers, a stat that likely precluded both of these teams from jumping well into the hundreds on the scoreboard.
L.A. was led by Blake Griffin's 20 points and 11 rebounds, but also got production from the rest of the lineup—four others finished in double figures. Chauncey Billups and Caron Butler had 19 points apiece for the Clips, and Jamal Crawford finished with 13 off the bench.
Chris Paul collected 10 points and 11 assists.
The Rockets were plagued by a rough shooting night from the outside (5-of-24 from three-point land) and wasted 52 points in the paint they collected against the Clippers. Chandler Parsons paced the Rockets with 17 points, while Jeremy Lin and James Anderson both chipped in 14 points in the losing effort.
Although Rockets guard James Harden was slated to start as late as 30 minutes before tipoff, he went through warm-ups and determined that the soreness in his right ankle was too great to bare.
Houston will maintain its hold on one of the final playoff spots in the Western Conference, but will need to pick it up in games against teams above .500 to reach the postseason for the first time under Kevin McHale.
Player of the Game: Clippers PF Blake Griffin
Griffin picked up the slack for a struggling Chris Paul, gathering some high-flying dunks and highlight-reel plays—per his usual nightly effort.
It was what he did at the free-throw line that helped the Clippers gain an advantage on Wednesday night.
He shot 8-of-11 from the line and finished with 20 points on the evening. Griffin added 11 rebounds, five assists, four steals and a block to complete his line, and reminded the Houston players while he'll be in the All-Star Game starting lineup on Sunday in their gym.
Up Next for the Rockets
Houston gets a full week of rest, sans Harden, as the All Star Game will come to town over the weekend. Houston will play host to the event and won't return to the court until Wednesday, Feb. 20, against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The layoff should give the Rockets a chance to rest up and get fully healthy, and Harden's ankle will be a hot topic as he participates in this year's midseason festivities.
Up Next for the Clippers
The Clippers will have no time to celebrate their offensive onslaught, as they will shift over to the visitor's side of Staples Center and take on the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night.
After beating the Lakers twice already this season, the Clippers can ensure a regular-season series win over their stadium rivals with a win. The Lakers are a different team than the one that lost those two games to open the season, but the defense will be Mike D'Antoni's team's biggest challenge on Thursday.