LOS ANGELES (AP) The Clippers are more than just Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and a no-name supporting cast.
Ask the Houston Rockets.
Griffin had 22 points and nine rebounds before sitting out most of the fourth quarter, Paul added 20 points and 10 assists, and the Clippers cruised to a 117-89 victory over Houston on Wednesday night.
But it was the combined efforts of Chauncey Billups,DeAndre Jordan, Caron Butler and reserve guard Randy Foye that helped turn the game into a laugher.
“We have so many weapons. And when guys are hitting shots, it’s tough to stop us,” Griffin said. “With Chauncey and Caron (Butler) and D.J. at the rim, it’s hard to guard all those things. So most of the time we get open looks and high-percentage shots. The key is just not forcing shots.”
Paul was 9 for 14 from the field and had three steals, extending his streak to 14 consecutive games with at least one. Foye locked it up by scoring 14 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter. Jordan had eight rebounds and seven points in 28 minutes, failing to block an opponents’ shot for the first time in his last 19 games.
Billups returned to the lineup, playing his first home game with the Clippers after sitting out two because of a sore groin. He scored 13 points in 22 minutes. The five-time All-Star, claimed from the New York Knicks in a waiver auction Dec. 12, averaged 16 points in his first two games with the club.
“He just gives us another solid guard – and a great guard,” Griffin said. “He always takes care of the ball, he gets good shots and gets everyone else involved. Having a guy like that, it’s hard to put a price on that.”
Billups was instrumental in the Clippers holding Kevin Martin to 14 points, after he averaged 23.8 over his previous four games. Martin took only nine shots in 25 1/2 minutes.
“It was a team thing, and it started with Chauncey,” Griffin said. “But every time Martin got in the lane, DeAndre was making him take tough shots. Martin is a great player. Tonight he missed a few shots that he normally hits. We were fortunate, but we did a good job on him.”
Kyle Lowry had 17 points and five assists for the Rockets, who won 25 of their previous 31 games against the Clippers and held them under 100 points in 14 of the previous 15 meetings. Houston played without reserve swingman Courtney Lee, who injured his right calf Tuesday night in a 108-99 loss to the Lakers.
“We struggled with everything tonight,” forward Luis Scola said. “We came in here and weren’t ready to play, and this is what happens when you don’t play hard. I don’t know how to explain it. What you do about it the next game shows what kind of team you are.”
Houston’s two best defensive efforts last season – in terms of lowest field goal percentage by an opponent – were against the Clippers. Los Angeles shot 36.4 percent in a 96-83 loss, and 34.7 percent in a 99-78 defeat.
“We made mistakes offensively and defensively,” Lowry said. “It’s just something we’ve got to figure out. We can’t have nights like this. It was a terrible day for us.”
Paul, who averaged 20.6 points and 10.0 assists in his previous 16 games against Houston while playing for the New Orleans Hornets, had 11 points and six assists in the first quarter to help the Clippers build a 67-55 halftime lead. Los Angeles ended the half shooting 67.5 percent while committing four of its seven turnovers.
Reserve guard Ryan Gomes beat the first-quarter buzzer with a 17-footer from the left baseline for a 41-26 margin. The Rockets narrowed the gap to 47-40 on Lowry’s 3-pointer with 7:38 left in the second quarter, but got no closer the rest of the game as the Clippers pulled away in the third.
Griffin, who went to the bench for good with 10:17 remaining, finished with 16 points in the paint – including a dunk off an alley-oop pass from Paul to cap an 18-7 run and give Los Angeles a 85-62 cushion with 5:47 left in the third.
“It’s been great playing with him,” Paul said. “He is a workhorse. I saw that when I played against him, but playing on the same team with him, you really appreciate how hard he works. But it’s our job as guards – me, Chauncey and the other guards – not to make him have to work so hard. We’re here to make his job easier, so that’s what we’re going to continue to try to do.”
Houston coach Kevin McHale emptied his bench during the ensuing timeout, and the Rockets scored the next four points. Moments later, Griffin and reserve center Samuel Dalembert nearly got into it under the Clippers’ basket before they were separated by Jordan.
The fourth quarter became a showcase for Foye, who scored 10 points in the first 3:42 to help the Clippers increase a 15-point lead to 102-76. He added a layup to make it a 30-point advantage with 5:07 to play.
Notes: Sitting in the second row across from the Rockets’ bench were Steve Garvey and Orel Hershiser, who are in a group that is trying to purchase the Dodgers from Frank McCourt. Among their competition is Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. … Rockets reserve F Marcus Morris, the 14th pick in the draft, has played only 17 minutes in the team’s first six games. Twin brother Markieff, drafted one spot ahead of him by Phoenix, has played 117 minutes through the Suns’ first six games. … This is the fifth time the Rockets have played the Clippers and Lakers back-to-back at Staples Center on the same trip since the building opened in 1999-00, and the first time they lost both. They came out with a split the other four times.
Updated January 5, 2012
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