NBA: Clippers too hot for Rockets to handle

FLYING START::Jeremy Lin, who scored 14 points, said Houston just did not do enough defensively during a first period when the Los Angeles Clippers ‘were on fire’

AFP and AP, LOS ANGELES

Fri, Feb 15, 2013 - Page 8

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.

In Boston, Kevin Garnett scored eight of his 12 points in the fourth quarter and added 11 rebounds, as the Celtics overcame poor shooting to beat the Bulls 71-69.

Paul Pierce went only 2 for 12 from the floor, but he hit a three-pointer that bounced around the rim to give Boston a five-point lead with three minutes to play. The Celtics shot just 36.8 percent, but still had the advantage over the Bulls, who made just 36.5 percent of their shots.

Joakim Noah had 10 points and 16 rebounds, and Carlos Boozer had 11 and 11 for Chicago. Reserve Marco Belinelli added 12 points in under 20 minutes for the Bulls.

In New York, reserve Alan Anderson scored 26 points in one of the few good offensive performances for either team as Toronto beat New York 92-88 for a fourth straight victory.

DeMar DeRozan added 20 points for the Raptors, who overcame a 4-for-21 performance from Rudy Gay because Knicks star Carmelo Anthony was just as bad. Anthony finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds, but shot 5 of 24 for the Knicks, who dropped their final two games leading into the All-Star break.

J.R. Smith led the Knicks with 26 points. Raymond Felton had 16, but shot 3 of 9.

Gay finished with 11 points one night after hitting the go-ahead basket with 4.9 seconds left in a victory over Denver.

In other NBA games it was:

‧ Mavericks 123, Kings 100

‧ Nets 119, Nuggets 108

‧ Pacers 101, Bobcats 77

‧ Hawks 108, Magic 76

‧ Pistons 96, Wizards 85

‧ Bucks 94, 76ers 92

‧ Jazz 97, Timberwolves 93

‧ Hornets 99, Trail Blazers 63