Austin Rivers leads Clippers' 124-99 rout of Rockets in Game 3

Austin Rivers leads third-quarter burst as Clippers defeat Rockets, 124-99

Presumably, Chris Paul's return to playoff action was going to make all things right in the Clippers' universe.

They indeed were whole again with Paul back after missing the first two games in this second-round playoff series against the Houston Rockets with a strained left hamstring.

They were made complete because of Austin Rivers' other-worldly performance.

Rivers was the man of this night, putting on a show of shows in the third quarter en route to a playoff career-high 25 points that sparked the Clippers to a 124-99 Game 3 thumping of the Rockets on Friday night at Staples Center.

Rivers' play lifted the Clippers to a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series that will resume with Game 4 here Sunday.

There was a moment in the game when Paul told Clippers Coach Doc Rivers to enjoy what his son, Austin ,was doing, that it was OK to be a dad.

"You want him to do well," Doc said. "I keep saying it. They're all my sons. I really believe that. Lester [Hudson] or Matt [Barnes], it's the same thing. I would have been proud because I see all of them do the work. Good for him [Austin]."

Paul was solid with 12 points on five-for-12 shooting, seven assists and three rebounds in just 23 minutes.

Blake Griffin turned in another big-time effort, producing 22 points and 14 rebounds.

J.J. Redick was the leading scorer with a playoff career-high 31 points on 11-for-14 shooting, five for six on three-pointers.

But Rivers was the star of stars for the Clippers.

His 15 points in the third were four fewer than the Rockets scored in the quarter.

His 13-point spree at the end of the period was the biggest part of the Clippers' 18-0 run that turned a close game into a total rout, the run going as high as 23-0 in the fourth quarter.

"I really don't know what to tell you," said Rivers, acquired during the season from New Orleans. "It's been a long journey."

Paul, who was sitting on the bench resting his hamstring, enjoyed every minute of Rivers' domination.

Rivers missed only two of the eight shots he took in the third quarter.

When he came to the bench at the end of the quarter, the fans chanted, "Aus-tin Riv-ers! Aus-tin Riv-ers! Aus-tin Riv-ers!"

He was greeted by Paul and Griffin, both of them wrapping up their young teammate in a bear hug.

Rivers checked out for the first time with 10:06 left in the game, the fan giving him a standing ovation, his teammates all applauding his performance as well.

"He was great," Doc Rivers said. "We needed that."

Paul missed his first two shots of the game, the rust showing on a player who hadn't played since the Clippers eliminated the San Antonio Spurs last Saturday night in the game Paul was first injured.

His passing was still on point from the start. He handed out five assists in the first quarter as the Clippers took a 33-24 lead.

"It was important because it allowed us to keep CP at his minutes," Doc Rivers said about Austin playing so well for so long. "That was huge for us. In a lot of ways the scoring and all that was great, but in the big picture, we allowed CP to get back in this series now, feel comfortable and not overextend himself. So all that was great."

Twitter: @BA_Turner

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