FINAL | March 30, 2013 | Toyota Center | Houston, TX















HOUSTON – In the Clippers’ previous two losses on their four-game road trip, it was a matter of seconds that made the difference.

On Saturday night at Toyota Center it was an entire quarter.

The Clippers were outscored by 17 points in the third period as the Rockets sent them back to Los Angeles with a 98-81 defeat and a third loss in five nights.

Chris Paul scored 19 points with seven assists, five rebounds and three steals and Jamal Crawford added 15 points off the bench, but the Clippers (49-25) got little else against a Houston team playing without All-Star James Harden, who missed the game with a sore right foot.

“They played harder than we did,” Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro angrily said in his postgame media scrum. “We were terrible. Our effort was terrible, our attitude was terrible, our urgency was terrible. Very disappointed. I didn’t see the fight in us tonight and we need guys to step up.”

Paul’s assessment of the performance, which dropped L.A into fifth place in the Western Conference, a game behind Denver and a half game behind Memphis after the Grizzlies knocked off the Timberwolves Saturday, echoed his coach’s sentiment.

“That was terrible,” Paul said. “I think our effort was poor, our execution was poor, our defense was poor. And that’s not the way you want to finish off a road trip, which we played pretty well on and it’s not the way you get to 50 wins.”

It was perhaps equally disappointing that they fell flat less than 24 hours after one of their most valiant efforts of the season, coming within 2.2 seconds and an errant final shot of knocking off the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs at the AT&T Center. Del Negro said regardless of the schedule, traveling to four cities in five nights, the team is deep enough and talented enough to put on a more consistent showing.

“We’re fighting for a spot and we come out with that second half, pretty much the whole game, effort. It was poor.” Del Negro added. “I know it’s the fourth game in five nights, but that’s no excuse we’ve got plenty of depth. No excuses. I don’t believe in that.”

At times early on, the Clippers looked like a team on the final leg of a long trip. The Rockets had eight layups or dunks in the first quarter and finished the first half with 26 points in the paint. They also converted six of their 10 3-pointers en route to 55 points before halftime.  

But the third quarter is when the weary legs appeared to really weaken. The Clippers were outscored, 30-13, and missed 16 of their 22 shots.

“They scored 30 points, that’s what happened in the third quarter,” said DeAndre Jordan, who had eight points and five rebounds the second game this season in his hometown of Houston. “They made a lot of threes. They came off the corners a lot. Too much. They made us pay.”

The Rockets were led by Jeremy Lin, Chandler Parsons and Francisco Garcia, who each scored 15 points. They out-rebounded the Clippers, 48-38, and held them to 32.5% shooting in the second half.

“We just have to lock into the game plan more and be better with what we do,” Ryan Hollins said. “I don’t think anyone had bad intentions or doesn’t want to play hard.”

A group of Clippers reserves, including Holins, closed the gap that was a large as 22 points to 14 in the early stages of the fourth by holding Houston without a basket for five straight possessions.

But the Rockets held them off and both teams emptied their benches with about three minutes to go.

“They have some playoff hopes and we’re a target team right now, so they had a little more oomph than we did,” Hollins said. “It’s tough to play when you’re a team with a target on your back. You’ve got to find a way to muster up that energy against every team you play that night.”

L.A. committed 11 turnovers in the opening half and despite 23 points from Blake Griffin and Paul combined fell behind by as many as eight points. They surged back behind Paul’s eight points in the final 4:36 of the second, but an offensive foul on Willie Green, traveling call on Caron Butler, and shot-clock violation on consecutive possessions proved costly.  The Rockets scored seven of the final 11 points of the half and Garcia scored half of the Rockets 26 second-quarter points.

From there the game quickly got out of hand.

“We let them get whatever they wanted,” Del Negro said. “We were just making shots [early]. In the second quarter they kept making shots we missed a couple. They had the lead and in the third quarter we thought we could get away with it when we knew we couldn’t. They kept making shots. We started missing and shooting a lot of jump shots.”



Crawford extended his streak of consecutive free throws made to 24. He already owns the franchise record with 57 in a row earlier this year… Griffin and Crawford were both assessed technical fouls in the second quarter… Jordan missed his second shot of the night, a 5-foot jump hook, snapping a league-high streak of 20 consecutive field goals made without a miss… Green scored six points and went 2-for-2 from 3-point range. He has now made 14 of his last 21 3-pointers…


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