HOUSTON (AP) –– Chris Paul had 30 points and 12 assists, Jamal Crawford added 22 points and the Los Angeles Clippers clinched their franchise-record third straight playoff appearance with a 118-107 win over the Houston Rockets on Saturday night.
The loss broke a five-game winning streak for Houston, which was without two of its starters as Dwight Howard and Pat Beverley sat out with injuries.
The Clippers trailed by as many as 15 points in the first half before using two big runs to take the lead. Houston stuck around for most of the second half before consecutive 3s by Matt Barnes and Darren Collison made it 114-101 late in the fourth.
But it wasn’t all good for Los Angeles, as Blake Griffin left in the first quarter with back spasms and didn’t return, and Glen Davis missed the second half for disciplinary reasons after throwing a temper tantrum in the second quarter.
James Harden led the Rockets with 32 points, and Chandler Parsons had 28. DeAndre Jordan added 20 points with 12 rebounds for the Clippers, who are third in the Western Conference.
Crawford scored all of the Clippers’ points in an 8-1 run to start the fourth quarter and leave them up 96-85. An 8-3 run by Houston cut the lead to 102-96 with five minutes remaining. Harden capped it with a free throw after a technical foul on Paul.
The Rockets scored the first five points of the third quarter to take a 63-61 lead. The teams exchanged the lead several times in that quarter before a layup by Ryan Hollins left Los Angeles up 88-84 entering the fourth quarter.
The first half was filled with drama for the Clippers, who lost Griffin in the first quarter before the incident with Davis in the second.
There appeared to be minimal contact between Griffin and Donatas Motiejunas before Griffin dropped to his hands and knees on his way to the bench after a timeout was called midway through the first quarter.
He was clutching his lower back and remained on the court for a couple of minutes before being helped to his feet. He was biting his jersey as he gingerly walked off the court and to the locker room.
Davis, whose nickname is “Big Baby,” was apparently upset after being taken out in the second quarter and threw a temper tantrum at coach Doc Rivers. Rivers immediately sent him to the locker room and the team announced that he would not return after halftime.
Davis was 0-for-2 with a steal in less than four minutes in the first half.
With Griffin out, Houston used a 7-2 spurt to start the second quarter and extend its advantage to 40-25.
The Rockets were still up by 15 points a couple of minutes later when the Clippers used an 8-0 run to cut the lead to 44-37. Harden made three free throws before another run — this one 14-2 — gave Los Angeles a 51-49 lead. Paul, who had 17 points in the second quarter, scored the first 10 points in that span with two 3s and he dished an alley-oop to Jordan to cap it with a dunk.
Los Angeles led by a point soon after that before scoring six straight points to extend the lead to 61-54 Houston scored the last four points of the quarter to cut the lead to 61-58 at halftime.
NOTES: Jordan went to high school in Houston and college at nearby Texas A&M. … Howard is day to day with a left ankle strain and Beverley has a torn meniscus in his right knee and is out indefinitely.