The puzzling Los Angeles Clippers finally have all their pieces together. Now they just have to find a way to make them fit.
But it won't be easy for them to post their first win of the season on Friday night as the Clippers open a five-game homestand against a Houston Rockets club they've defeated only once at Staples Center in the past five seasons.
With Al Thornton, Marcus Camby, Chris Kaman, Cuttino Mobley and Baron Davis all in the starting lineup for the first time in 2008-09, the Clippers (0-5) led the Los Angeles Lakers 81-80 on Wednesday with 7:28 left - a week after their city rival handed them a 38-point defeat.
That's when Davis was forced to the bench with his fifth foul.
"When Baron got his fifth foul, it seemed like we were real stagnant after that," said Kaman, who had a string of three straight double-doubles snapped with six points and 11 rebounds.
The Clippers, outscored by an average of 20.8 points this season, went scoreless for 7:11 and the Lakers rolled off 22 straight points for a 106-88 win.
"Once we get our guys conditioned and begin to tough it out, then we will win games," Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy told the team's official Web site.
In his second game - and first start - after being sidelined with a bruised right heel, Camby had two points, seven rebounds and four blocked shots. He has averaged 9.2 points, 10.5 rebounds and 2.4 blocks in 26 career games against Houston.
Davis started on Wednesday for the first time since hurting his left hip against Denver on Oct. 31, and scored a season-high 17 points on 7-of-21 shooting.
Last season with Golden State, Davis averaged 24.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 6.3 assists in four games versus the Rockets.
Thornton led the Clippers with 22 points and Tim Thomas added 18 and 11 rebounds against the Lakers.
Houston enters on a two-game slide after a heartbreaking 101-99 overtime loss to Portland on Thursday. Yao Ming's three-point play with 0.8 seconds remaining gave the Rockets a 99-98 lead, but Brandon Roy - who fouled Yao on that play - drilled a 30-footer at the buzzer as Houston (3-2) fell in the opener of its five-game swing.
"We have to move on," said Houston guard Rafer Alston. "We have a schedule to be played."
Yao had 13 points and six rebounds against Portland, and has shot a combined 8-of-27 in losses to Boston and the Trail Blazers after going 23-of-44 from the field during the Rockets' three-game winning streak.
In 20 career games against the Clippers, Yao has averaged 17.1 points and 9.4 rebounds. He had 14 and eight in an 88-71 win over Los Angeles on Nov. 26, 2007, but missed the final two matchups later last season - both Houston wins - with a broken left foot.
Tracy McGrady scored a season-high 30 against Portland, while first-year Rocket Ron Artest had a season-low nine on 3-of-9 shooting.
McGrady has averaged 22.0 points in 23 career games against the Clippers.
The Rockets have won nine of their past 10 games at the Clippers by an average of 16.1 points. Los Angeles' last home victory over Houston was Dec. 17, 2005, behind a 22 points and eight assists from former Rocket Sam Cassell.
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