Clippers play with focus to beat the Houston Rockets, 102-85

Clippers play with focus to beat the Houston Rockets, 102-85
Clippers forward Blake Griffin tries to steal the ball from Rockets forward Tarik Black in the second half. (Pat Sullivan / Associated Press)

The Clippers focused on the Houston Rockets and not how soon they would be returning home to Los Angeles.

And even though they were facing an undermanned Rockets team, the Clippers clamped down on defense, using that to pull off a 102-85 victory over Houston on Friday night at Toyota Center.

The Clippers easily could have put all their thoughts into just getting this seven-game, 12-day trip over.

Instead, they put their energy into playing defense, which allowed the Clippers to hold the Rockets to 39% shooting, 27% on three-pointers.


"Obviously, it's a long trip, and we're just trying to win one at a time," Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said. "I thought our guys came out with great focus tonight. I thought our defense was terrific."


That focus and defense is why the Clippers improved to 5-1 on the trip.

That focus is what allowed Blake Griffin to score 30 points and grab 10 rebounds. It allowed Jamal Crawford to score 21 points on seven-for-12 shooting, for J.J. Redick to score 15 points and for DeAndre Jordan to grab 13 rebounds, block three shots and score seven points.

The Clippers, who finish this physically and mentally challenging trip Saturday night in Utah, know they got through the Rockets game by focusing.

"It was really tough," Griffin said. "But thankfully we've had success. We don't want that to go away now. This was a very important game. Obviously, this last one was important. But obviously the next game we're about to play is the most important on our schedule because it's the next one. We can't overlook anybody."

The Clippers put this game away in the fourth quarter.

Neither team really did much on offense in the fourth.

The Clippers scored just 17 points in the fourth, but limited the Rockets to 13 points on four-for-22 (18.2%) shooting.

How strong was the Clippers' defensive grip in the fourth quarter?

Well, they didn't allow the Rockets to score their first field goal in the fourth until there were 3 minutes 12 seconds left.

And by that time, the Clippers had been in the process of stretching their lead to 24 points in the fourth.

"I just liked the way we played the entire game," Rivers said.

The Rockets were without three starters.

Center Dwight Howard (strained right knee), guard Pat Beverley (strained left hamstring) and forward Terrence Jones (left leg nerve inflammation) didn't play.

Then late in the second quarter, Isaiah Canaan, who had been starting in place of Beverley, sprained his left ankle and didn't return.

So the Clippers zeroed in on James Harden, holding him to 16 points.

"Every game we keep saying, 'Another win and we can make it a great trip,' " said Chris Paul, who had 10 points and seven assist. "And now going to Utah, which is a tough place to play, this would be a great trip, an amazing trip if we can pull this one out tomorrow."