Jamal Crawford scored a season-high 30 points as the Los Angeles Clippers beat the Houston Rockets 117-109, despite playing their second consecutive game without star guard Chris Paul.
Paul sat out with a bruised kneecap, but it did not matter as Eric Bledsoe filled in nicely, registering a season-high 19 points along with seven rebounds, five assists and two steals on Tuesday.
Blake Griffin finished with 19 points and eight assists for the Clippers, who once again received plenty of support from their bench players.
Crawford sank 11-of-20 from the field and Matt Barnes scored 18 to help Los Angeles become the NBA’s second 30-win team.
James Harden scored 23 points, and Jeremy Lin added 12 points and 10 assists for Houston, whose poor shooting in the third quarter contributed to their fourth straight loss.
Chandler Parsons and Carlos Delfino had 17 and 16 points respectively in the loss.
The Rockets led by one at halftime, but the Clippers seized control in the third quarter.
They quickly grabbed an 11-point lead at 76-65 after opening the third on an 18-6 run. The surge featured a three-point play from Griffin, a triple by Bledsoe and a pair of three-pointers by Willie Green.
The Rockets shot just 38.9 percent to the Clippers’ 60 percent in the quarter. Houston closed the gap to 13 points by the end of the third, but Crawford put the game away for Los Angeles with his superb shooting to start the fourth.
He scored the Clippers’ first 12 points of the fourth, nailing five shots in a row to build their lead back up to 19 points with just over nine minutes left.
Lakers 104, Bucks 88
Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant formed a dominant inside-outside combination to maintain the Los Angeles Lakers’ winning momentum with a 104-88 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday.
Howard ruled the inside with 31 points and 16 rebounds in his second game since missing three with a shoulder injury, while Bryant controlled the perimeter with 31 and six assists.
It was the Lakers’ (17-21) second straight win after enduring a six-game losing streak.
“We’re starting to get a better connection,” Bryant said of his relationship with Howard. “Now I can hit him and he’s finishing. If I see a crack in the lane, I’m going to try to get him the ball.”
After taking a seven-point lead at halftime, the home Lakers ran away from the Bucks in the fourth quarter, where they opened with a 21-7 run that provided a 100-80 lead.
Showing newfound teamwork, Los Angeles compiled 30 assists on the night while shooting 50 percent from the floor.
Monta Ellis led Milwaukee (19-18) with 17 points as the visitors fell to 3-2 under interim coach Jim Boylan. The team fired Scott Skiles last week after an uninspired start and a string of four successive defeats.
Against the Lakers, the Bucks had a tough night shooting and made just seven of 28 three-pointers as they were hounded by an improved Los Angeles defense.
Coach Mike D’Antoni has asked the veteran Bryant to take the lead defensively and guard the opposing team’s top player, Brandon Jennings, who managed just 12 points on four-of-14 shooting.
Jamison finished with 10 points and eight rebounds, while Steve Nash paced the team with 11 assists.
Los Angeles played a fifth straight game without Pau Gasol, who is still recovering from a concussion.
The Lakers are now to prepare for a showdown with the defending NBA champions Miami Heat today as they try to extend their winning ways.
In other play, it was:
‧ Nuggets 115, Trail Blazers 111,
‧ Pacers 103, Bobcats 76
‧ Nets 113, Raptors 106
‧ Hornets 111, 76ers 99