FINAL | January 15, 2013 | Toyota Center, Houston, TX 

Clippers

28

30

32

27

117

LOGO

29

30

18

32

109

 

ERIC PATTEN 

HOUSTON–No Chris Paul. No problem.

Even as their superstar point guard missed his second consecutive game with a bruised right kneecap, the Clippers, again, won in convincing fashion. A night after holding the Grizzlies to a season-low in points, they outran the Houston Rockets, 117-109, at Toyota Center, reaching 30 wins faster than any previous season in franchise history.

The Clippers (30-9) climbed within a half game of the Oklahoma City Thunder for the league’s top record, while Houston (21-18) lost its fourth straight.

“I liked this game,” said Jamal Crawford, who scored a season-high 30 points to lead all scorers. “No, I really did, I liked this game. We do it collectively, that’s what it’s all about. At different points in the game, Blake [Griffin] had it going, Matt [Barnes), Grant [Hill] was facilitating and running the show. Obviously, we go through Blake all the time and we had some great stretches. We all pulled for each other, and we’re all in it together and that’s how we win.”

Five players scored in double-figures for the Clippers, including three reaching season highs in points.

Moment of Truth: The first 6:29 of the third quarter were near flawless. The Clippers were halted on just one possession and missed only two shots as part of a 25-6 run to open the second half. The stretch turned a 59-58 Rockets lead at halftime into an 18-point advantage for the Clippers.  

Difference Maker: Blake Griffin. He did not have the gaudy scoring numbers and committed six turnovers, but Griffin helped initiate the offense with Paul sidelined. His aggressiveness early on helped open things up for his teammates on the perimeter and created driving lanes for Eric Bledsoe. He had eight assists, including a shovel pass to Jordan for a dunk and several kick-outs to open players on the perimeter.

Griffin, who has 13 assists in the last two games, said he has adjusted his approach somewhat without Paul on the court. “Just trying to be a distributor out of the post. Our game changes a little bit with him out because he’s the guy that gets everybody into their shots and their spots. We’ve really worked the ball into the post to start out games, so it’s important for me to not just look for shots every single time, but to spread the floor and kick.”

Stat Line of the Night: 

Crawford. In what promised to be a high-scoring game, the West’s most prolific bench scorer took over the game in the second and fourth quarters, scoring a season-high 30 points and out-dueling fellow All-Star candidate James Harden.

Crawford, who upped his scoring average to 16.6 points per game, had 12 of his 15 first-half points in the second and went 4-for-6 from the field. Even as the Rockets threatened to pull away with baskets on five consecutive possessions in one stretch, Crawford kept the Clippers close. He scored seven in row and after the Clippers held Houston scoreless on three of its final four possessions, Crawford milked the clock and found a cutting Bledsoe for a layup with 1.2 seconds left in the half.

“The game started kind of slow and I wanted to be more aggressive and coach said he was going to put me at the 2 a little bit more tonight instead of just setting it up,” Crawford said. “I was able to be more aggressive and it’s my teammates honestly. I thought Ronny [Turiaf] got me going setting some great screens, getting some good passes from [Bledsoe] and Grant [Hill] and those guys. Coach is drawing some great plays. It’s never about me, it’s always those guys and those little things.”

In the fourth, the show was even more prolific. He had Toyota Center bustling after a series of five consecutive field goals that included a crossover fadeaway over Jeremy Lin, turnaround from the elbow and 3-pointer over a tough contest. He scored 15 in the period and finished 5-for-7 from 3-point range.

More Stats: 

Willie Green. He put up his eighth double-digit scoring game of the season, finishing with a season-high 15 points. His 5-for-6 shooting effort was punctuated by a two-handed, double-clutch dunk on a fast break that drew a foul on Harden and caused the entire Clippers bench to leave their seat. 

Griffin. For the second night in a row, Griffin set the tone with a big first-quarter effort. He scored 10 of his 19 points in the opening 12 minutes and finished with a season-high eight assists to go with four rebounds, a steal and a block.

Bledsoe. He operated within the context of the offense for the second night in a row without Paul and had even more success. He scored a season-high 17 points bundled with seven rebounds, five assists and two steals.

“I thought Eric Bledsoe played well again for us,” Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said. “He controlled the tempo of the game and did a lot of good things.”

Harden. There’s a reason the likely first-time All-Star is fourth in the NBA in scoring, he got going early, scoring 12 points in the first quarter. But the Clippers held him somewhat in check after halftime. He had 23 points on 8-for-20 shooting (2-for-9 from 3-point range), four rebounds and three assists.  

Hot: Start to the third by the Clippers. Not only did the 25-6 run break things open, but it was compounded by the Clippers’ defense. The Rockets missed their first five 3-pointers of the period after going 8-for-20 in the first half.

“We have a lot of weapons here and it’s hard to game plan for any one thing, but we know if we’re playing defense our offense will come,” said Matt Barnes, who had 18 points off the bench. “We switched our game plan up a little bit [in the third]. They tried to go small so we started switching more picks so we wouldn’t leave them with so many wide-open threes.”

Not: Rockets from the free throw line. They were 14-for-25 (56.0%) for the game, including missing 2-of-4 technical free throws after Del Negro, Griffin ad Odom were whistled for individual technical fouls at various points in the game and the Clippers were called for an illegal defense.

Quotables:

On the game:

Del Negro: “Houston makes it tough because they stretch you out. After we got some of our switches cleared up at halftime, we did a better job in the third and we controlled the game from there. We have good versatility, but we have to find out our way and I was pleased that we were only down one at half with the way we played. I knew we would come out in the third quarter and play harder.”

On the run in the third quarter:

Barnes: “The starters set the tone early. They made that huge run and put us up. After that it was kind of out of reach. [The Rockets] cut it a little bit, but we kind of stayed pretty consistent as far as playing with a league.”

Green: “We were able to push the lead up in the third quarter and in the fourth we were able to sustain that with Jamal and Matt and Lamar [Odom] and Ronny [Turiaf] and those guys coming in and giving us a big lift. So, collectively it was a good effort by everybody.”

On the status of Paul moving forward:

Del Negro: “He feels a lot better today. He’s gotten great therapy. But we’ll take it a day at a time. He’ll be a game-time decision come Thursday [at Minnesota].”

On what went wrong for the Rockets offensively:

Lin: “Honestly, I think we just couldn't get a rhythm. They (Clippers) were getting everything but we were not getting any stops. I think we just lacked the ball movement and the energy and the thrust and pace that we played with in the first half.”

Notes: Hill played in his 1,000th career game, becoming the 20th active player to top the 1,000-game milestone… Crawford reached 13,000 points for his career. He’s one of 35 active players to reach that mark. He has also scored 30 points or more 47 times in his career, but Tuesday was the first time as a member of the Clippers. His previous season-high was 29… Odom collected a game-high 11 rebounds. It was his fifth double-digit rebound game this season… Playing in his hometown of Houston, DeAndre Jordan scored nine points, including a high-flying first-quarter alley-oop from Bledsoe, and grabbed four boards. Jordan said he had about 50 friends and family members in attendance, including about 20 people in luxury suite.

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