The Clippers' point guard played phenomenal basketball, just not the one that everyone would expect.
In Chris Paul's series debut, reserve point guard Austin Rivers stole the show coming off the bench to score 25 points on 10-for-13 shooting in 23 minutes and help lead the Clippers to a 124-99 win in Game 3 of the their second-round playoff series against the Houston Rockets on Friday at Staples Center.
Rivers equaled the number of points scored by the Rockets reserves.
The Clippers now lead the best-of-seven series, two game to one. Game 4 will be at 5:30 p.m. PDT Sunday at Staples Center.
Rivers took control late in the third quarter, scoring 15 points in the final four minutes as the Clippers went on a 20-3 run to take a 23-point lead into the fourth quarter. At the end of the third quarter, the crowd chanted "Austin Rivers, Austin Rivers."
The Clippers pushed their lead to as many as 32 points halfway through the fourth quarter. They outshot the Rockets from the field, 55.4% to 39.8%, and from beyond the three-point line, 44.8% to 33.3%.
Paul missed the first two games of the series because of a strained left hamstring that he sustained in Game 7 of the Clippers' first-round playoff series against the San Antonio Spurs on May 2. Paul finished with 12 points on five-for-12 shooting and seven assists in 23 minutes.
J.J. Redick led the Clippers with 31 points on 11-for-14 shooting, including making five of his six three-point shots. Blake Griffin had 22 points, though it took him 20 shots to get them. He also had 14 rebounds, four assists and seven turnovers.
James Harden led the Rockets with 25 points on eight-for-16 shooting and 11 assists, though he also had five turnovers. Dwight Howard had 14 points on five-for-11 shooting and 14 rebounds.
The Clippers pushed their lead to 32 points, 116-84, after Blake Griffin made a free throw with 6 minutes left.
They're outshooting the Rockets from the field, 57.1% to 40%, and from beyond the three-point line, 46.2% to 33.3%.
The Clippers have turned Game 3 of their second-round playoff series with the Rockets into a laugher.
With six minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Clippers have a 29-point lead, 116-87.
J.J. Redick has 26 points on nine-of-12 shooting and Austin Rivers has 25 points on 10-of-13 shooting in the game. Redick has made four of five three-point shots while Rivers is three of six from long range.
Chris Paul, making his series debut after straining his left hamstring in the Game 7 win over the San Antonio Spurs, has played 23 minutes, scoring 12 points and dishing seven assists.
Austin Rivers continued his third-quarter antics in the fourth, making his first shot -- a three-pointer -- to give the Clippers a 28-point lead, 104-76, with 11 minutes left.
Rivers has a game-high 25 points on 10-for-13 shooting. There's a loud "Austin Rivers" chant coming from the crowd.
Clippers 99, Rockets 76 (end of third quarter)
Well, it looks like Chris Paul didn't have to play in Game 3 after all. Reserve guard Austin Rivers scored 15 of his game-high 22 points in the third quarter to give the Clippers a 23-point lead, their biggest advantage of the game.
The Clippers went on an 18-0 run to close out the third quarter. Rivers scored 13 points over that stretch, prompting an "Austin Rivers, Austin Rivers" chant from the crowd. Rivers has more points off the bench than the entire Rockets' reserves combined (15).
J.J. Redick has 20 points on seven-for-10 shooting. Blake Griffin has 19 points and 12 rebounds.
James Harden leads the Rockets with 16 points and 10 assists.
The Rockets went on a 6-2 run to cut their deficit to three, 66-63, with 9 minutes and 37 seconds left. The Clippers then went on a 13-4 run to take a 12-point lead, 79-67, with 6 minutes left.
With their lead cut to just three, the Clippers went on a 7-3 run to put their lead back to seven points, 73-66, with 8 minutes left in the third quarter.
That run included a tip shot and a dunk from Blake Griffin and a three-pointer from Chris Paul. Griffin leads all scorers with 19 points on nine-for-17 shooting.
The Rockets opened the third quarter with a 6-2 run to cut their deficit to three points, 66-63, with 9 minutes 37 seconds left.
Clippers Coach Doc Rivers has called a timeout to chat with his team. The Clippers led by as many as 12 points late in the second quarter.
Clippers 64, Rockets 57 (halftime)
The Clippers will enter the third quarter with a seven-point lead over the Rockets in Game 3 of their second-round playoff series, which is tied at 1-1.
The Rockets went on a 5-0 run at the end of the second quarter to cut their 12-point deficit to single digits.
The Clippers are outshooting the Rockets from the field, 55.6% to 41.2%. The Rockets have made nine of their 16 free-throw attempts. The Clippers have made eight of their nine shots from the charity stripe.
Chris Paul, who made his series debut tonight after missing the first two games because of a strained left hamstring, has six points on three-for-nine shooting and six assists in 16 minutes.
Paul's highlights include a beautiful wrap-around pass to Blake Griffin, dunked the ball, with 2 minutes 33 seconds left. On the Clippers' next possession, Paul made a step-back jumper.
Here's an unusual stat -- the Clippers' bench is actually outscoring the Rockets' reserves, 22-10.
J.J. Redick leads all scorers with 16 points on five-for-seven shooting, including making each of his three-point attempts. Blake Griffin has 13 points points on six-for-11 shooting and eight rebounds. Jamal Crawford had nine points on four-for-eight shooting. Austin Rivers has seven points.
Dwight Howard leads the Rockets with 14 points on five-for-eight shooting and 10 rebounds. Jason Terry has 11 points, including three-three pointers. James Harden has 10 points on four-for-eight shooting and seven assists.
The Clippers have stretched their lead to double digits, 54-43, with 3 minutes 27 seconds left in the second quarter when Matt Barnes sank two free throws after a flagrant foul 1 was called on Rockets forward Terrence Jones and then Blake Griffin made a jumper on the ensuing possession.
J.J. Redick lead the Clippers in scoring with 16 points on five-of-shooting from the field. He has made all three of his three-point shots.
Jamal Crawford made a three-pointer with less than 8 minutes left in the first half to put the Clippers ahead by nine points, 43-34.
Crawford has seven points on three-for-five shooting off the bench for the Clippers. The Clippers' bench is actually outscoring the Rockets' reserves, 16-10.
The Clippers are on a 5-0 run with a three-pointer and a layup made by Austin Rivers and lead the Rockets, 38-29, with 10 minutes left in the second quarter. Rivers has seven points off the bench on three-for-four shooting.
The Clippers have made five of their 10 three-point attempts, while the Rockets have only made two of their 10 shots from beyond the arc.
Clippers 33, Rockets 23 (end of first quarter)
The Clippers ended the first quarter with a 7-0 run to take a nine-point lead, their biggest advantage of the game, into the second quarter.
During that stretch, Matt Barnes made a three-pointer, DeAndre Jordan dunked and Jamal Crawford made a running hook shot.
Chris Paul, who is making his series debut, scored his first field goal of the game with just less than seven minutes left. He then quickly scored another basket on the Clippers' next possession with 6 minutes 36 seconds left. Paul has four points on two-for-five shooting and five assists in seven minutes.
The Clippers are outshooting the Rockets from the field, 53.8% to 40.7%, and from beyond the three-point line, 44.4% to 16.7%. The Clippers also have eight fast-break points while the Rockets don't have any.
The Rockets, however, have 18 points in the paint while the Clippers only have 10.
J.J. Redick leads the Clippers with 11 points on four-for-five shooting. Blake Griffin has seven points -- including two monster dunks -- and five rebounds.
Dwight Howard leads the Rockets with nine points on four-for-five shooting and six rebounds. Terrence Jones has eight points. James Harden has five points on two-for-five shooting.
Chris Paul made is first basket of the game with just less than seven minutes left. He then quickly scored another basket on the Clippers' next possession with 6 minutes and 36 seconds left in the first.
Clippers Coach Doc Rivers, who made it clear he wants to monitor Paul's minutes, then subbed him out. Paul had four points on two-for-four shooting and five assists in five minutes.
The Clippers lead the Rockets, 19-15.
Blake Griffin had back-to-back monster dunks to tie the score at 8-8 with 9 minutes left in the first quarter.
Griffin has five points on two-for-three shooting from the field. J.J. Redick leads the Clippers with six points on two-for-three shooting.
Before Game 3, Clippers Coach Doc Rivers questioned whether Chris Paul would be aggressive or protective of his strained left hamstring in his series debut on Friday.
If the opening play is any indication, the answer is aggressive. Paul attempted the first shot of the game, a three-pointer, which he missed.
Clippers All-Star point guard Chris Paul, who is nursing a strained left hamstring, will play make his series but tonight against the Houston Rockets in Game 3 of their second-round playoff series.
Paul missed Games 1 and 2 with the injury, which he sustained in Game 7 of the Clippers' first-round playoff series against the San Antonio Spurs on May 2.
Without their eight-time All-Star point guard, the Clippers won Game 1 in Houston, 117-101. They then lost Game 2 in Houston, 115-109.
"We're definitely going to restrict his minutes, and a lot of it will be visually," Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said before Game 3 at Staples Center.
In the Rockets' Game 2 win, they shot a whopping 64 free throws and made 42. The Clippers shot half as many free throws (32), making 25 of them. The Rockets also outrebounded the Clippers, 54-40.
Harden led the Rockets with 32 points, 16 of which he scored in the fourth quarter. The NBA MVP runner-up made each of his 15 free throws, though he had just as many turnovers (seven) as assists (seven). Dwight Howard had 24 points on eight-for-11 shooting, 16 rebounds, three assists and four blocked shots.