Rivalry heats up between Clippers and Houston Rockets

Game between Clippers and Houston Rockets gets chippy

Make some more room, Memphis Grizzlies and Golden State Warriors.

The Houston Rockets just might be stepping into the fray when it comes to the Clippers' newest rivals.

Things have been testy in each of the last two meetings between the teams, with arms, hands and tongues being freely deployed as weapons of mass distraction Sunday at Staples Center during the Rockets' 100-98 victory.

Clippers small forward Matt Barnes was issued a flagrant-1 foul in the second quarter when he wrapped both arms around Rockets shooting guard James Harden and flung him to the ground.

There was another ugly exchange in the fourth quarter after Rockets forward Corey Brewer dunked on Clippers counterpart Blake Griffin. The players barked at one another underneath the basket and were each assessed a technical foul.

"It was very chippy," Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said. "Silly chippy."

Is that something that could carry over to a possible playoff series?

"Sure, why not? I don't mind that," Rivers said. "I just want to be able to be chippy and play. I didn't think we handled that very well tonight. I thought they had the upper hand in the trash talk or whatever it was today."

Confidence game

Jordan Hamilton played with newfound confidence before sustaining what the Clippers small forward described as a mildly sprained right ankle when he planted his foot awkwardly in the third quarter.

Hamilton did not return and finished with eight points in 11 minutes. He indicated afterward that he had sensed the Clippers would keep him the rest of the season after his second 10-day contract expires Monday.

Rivers confirmed that was "most likely" the case.

"Nerves are out the window, now," Hamilton said when informed of Rivers' comments. "Now it's time to play basketball."

Hamilton said X-rays on his ankle were negative and that he expected to return in a few days. The Clippers' next game is Tuesday against the Charlotte Hornets.

Still waiting

No news continued to be bad news for Jamal Crawford.

The shooting guard who has been sidelined since suffering a deep bruise in his right calf March 2 appears no closer to returning.

"I don't think he's improved at all, I can tell you that," Rivers said of Crawford, who has missed six games.

Rivers said he was unsure whether Crawford could return before the playoffs start next month. Crawford did not speak with reporters.

Etc.

Griffin said doctors told him he was no more susceptible to staph infection now than he was before contracting it last month.

ben.bolch@latimes.com

Twitter: @latbbolch

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