and Cleveland, ohio
The Los Angeles Clippers set the tone with a 46-point first quarter and rolled to a 106-96 NBA victory over the Houston Rockets on Wednesday.
Caron Butler scored 17 of his 19 points in the first quarter, when the Clippers shot a blistering 77.3 percent from the field. They led 46-28 after one period and were up 69-49 at halftime.
The Rockets, playing without their injured leading scorer James Harden, could not dig themselves out of the hole.
Blake Griffin led Los Angeles with 20 points and 11 rebounds. Butler and Chauncey Billups added 19 apiece as the Clippers won their third straight game — their first home contest after an eight-game road trip.
Chris Paul added 10 points and 11 assists for the Clippers.
Chandler Parsons scored 17 points for the Rockets, who got 14 points each from Jeremy Lin and James Anderson.
Harden, who hurt his ankle on Tuesday in a 116-107 victory at Golden State, did not play after feeling soreness in the warm-up.
“Obviously we got out to a nice start,” Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said. “It was a big first quarter for us. I thought that we jumped on them early.”
“Chauncey hit some great shots,” he said of Billups.
“Caron really got us off to a good start and did a good job defensively which was good to see,” Del Negro added of Butler, who made 7-of-9 from the field in the first quarter including 3-of-3 from three-point range.
“We didn’t come out ready to play,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. “We had no pressure on the ball whatsoever ... we had no presence defensively. We were really bad.”
The Rockets held the Clippers to just 23 points in the second quarter, but could not get the deficit below double digits.
Houston outscored Los Angeles 23-19 in the third, but were unable to mount the sustained run that they needed.
“We had way too many turnovers in the second half,” said Del Negro, who was disappointed in the performance of his reserves.
“That’s why they kept making runs at us [but] we did enough in the second half to make sure we got the win,” he said.
Lin, who had one wrist taped after a spill under the basket during the frantic first quarter, said the Rockets just did not do enough defensively in the first period.
“They were on fire and we didn’t do a good job of making it difficult,” he said. “We just didn’t make it uncomfortable for them.”
The Rockets do not play again until after this weekend’s All-Star break. The All-Star Game will be held at their arena in Houston on Sunday.
The Rockets return to action with another tough Western Conference match-up against Oklahoma City next Wednesday.
Meanwhile, in Cleveland, Ohio, Kawhi Leonard made a three-pointer with 2.9 seconds remaining to give the San Antonio Spurs a 96-95 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Leonard’s basket came after Dion Waiters’ jumper with 9.5 seconds to go put Cleveland up 95-93.
The Spurs, who have won 14 of 15, had stars Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili on the floor together for the first time since Jan. 13.
Kyrie Irving, who was held to a season-low six points, missed a desperation runner from the top of the key as time expired.
Tony Parker led the Spurs with 24 points while Gary Neal scored 15.
Duncan, who had missed eight of the last nine games with a sore left knee, scored 13 points in 25 minutes. Ginobili had five points in nine minutes off the bench after missing nine of the last 13 games with a tight left hamstring.