Austin Rivers was the last Clipper into the locker room Wednesday night, meaning he had to dance to fulfill the team's postgame ritual after victories.
The shooting guard tailored his moves to the beat his teammates provided.
“I adjust,” Rivers said. “It's kind of like basketball.”
Rivers and the rest of the bench looked nothing like they had 24 hours earlier, making shots and sustaining defensive intensity. There was also an early scoring spree from J.J. Redick, who had 14 of his 25 points in the game's first 51/2 minutes to help the Clippers amass a season-high 72 points in the first half.
Clippers point guard Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan were completely in sync, with lob after lob ending in Jordan dunks. Paul had 16 assists to go with his 15 points and Jordan finished with 23 points and 16 rebounds.
Jordan credited Redick's hot start for his clear paths to the basket.
“When J.J.'s shooting the ball like he was,” Jordan said, “that kind of opened the floor for us early and then we got rolls. We got pretty much what we wanted.”
The Clippers were ahead by 24 points early in the fourth quarter, rendering another Rockets comeback moot. Houston closed to within 11 points with a little more than five minutes to play before a driving layup from Paul and a Redick three-pointer prevented a repeat of the Clippers' epic Game 6 collapse against the Rockets in the Western Conference semifinals.
The resounding victory was a happy birthday present to Clippers star Blake Griffin, who turned 27 on Wednesday while sitting out his 37th consecutive game because of quadriceps and hand injuries. It also said something about the resolve of a team that won for a seventh consecutive time on the second night of a back-to-back situation.
“Last year we didn't have that,” Rivers said. “I think sometimes we got down and started pointing the finger and questioning everything. I think now we focus on bouncing back and get right back at it.”
It was “Weird Beard” night, with fans receiving pink faux beards that were an offbeat take on Rockets shooting guard James Harden's facial hair. What was more unusual was Harden's eight turnovers amid his usual scoring splurge. He finished with 33 points on 11-for-23 shooting.
But Rockets teammate Dwight Howard was unusually quiet. He took only four shots, making two, and tallied six points.
“We put a major focus on that,” Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said of stopping Howard, “and I thought our guys did a great job of game-planning there.”
The Clippers built a 72-50 halftime lead by reviving their preferred run-and-fun formula. It started with their defense. They forced 10 Rockets turnovers in the first half and thrived in transition.
There was also a reversal of the Clippers bench's putrid effort the previous night in San Antonio. The reserves combined for 30 points in just the first half, 10 more points than they scored in the entire game against the Spurs. Wesley Johnson made all four of his shots before halftime, receiving a pat on the rump from Jordan after a corner three-pointer.
Paul Pierce had a successful return from the sore right big toe that had forced him to miss the previous five games. The forward came off the bench and scored seven points in 18 minutes.
Jamal Crawford finished with 14 points off the bench and Austin Rivers and Johnson added 12 apiece to help the Clippers (43-24) improve to 1-1 on their five-game trip.
The night ended in fitting fashion for the Clippers, with one of their own breaking out his best moves in the locker room.
“It's a good thing,” Austin Rivers said. “I just can't dance.”
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