In an intense game in which both Blake Griffin and Trevor Ariza were ejected and the animosity almost carried over into the Clippers’ locker room afterward, Lou Williams pushed the Clippers to a 113-102 victory over the Houston Rockets on Monday night at Staples Center.
Williams was one of the players who came over from the Rockets last summer in the trade that sent Chris Paul to Houston. It was Williams who tore the Rockets apart with 31 points and nine assists, giving the Clippers a season-high five-game winning streak and lifting them above .500 for the first time since Nov. 4, when they were 5-4.
Paul, after playing in his first game against the Clippers since forcing the trade, tried to enter his former team’s locker room through a hallway that connects both teams, several people who were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter said.
They said that Paul was accompanied by teammates Gerald Green, Ariza and injured star James Harden, who did not play in the game.
All were eventually stopped short after security was called. Rockets center Clint Capela stood outside of the Clippers locker room but couldn’t get in.
The NBA surely will look into the matter and there could be fines and suspensions for the Rockets players.
“Our team was in our locker room,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “Their team was not in their locker room. That’s all I’m going to say.”
Said a witness: “It was just a lot of barking.”
The trash-talking started in the fourth quarter after Griffin (29 points) scored down low on Paul (19 points), who was called for a foul and complained that the foul should have come before the basket.
Griffin said it was an “And-1” which made Mike D’Antoni upset enough to have words with him near the Rockets bench. The Houston coach said Griffin had bumped him during the game. Both were hit with technical fouls.
After Griffin made the free throw to complete a three-point play, the Clippers held a 109-98 lead with 3 minutes 34 seconds left and all the momentum was on their side.
Then, with 1:03 left, Griffin and Ariza exchanged words, this after Ariza had words with Clippers guard Austin Rivers, who was sidelined because of an injured ankle and sitting on the bench.
As Griffin walked off the court with his second technical foul, he removed his jersey and threw it into the stands, yelling and swearing as he walked to the locker room.
“We knew it would be an emotional game in some way,” Doc Rivers said. “We didn’t know how, but we talked about that.
“So we just were going to play through the game and I thought overall we did that.”
Before the game, Paul hugged DeAndre Jordan and Clippers assistant coach Sam Cassell at midcourt.
When the pregame introductions started, he was cheered.
But when the game started and he touched the ball, he was booed.
Then, after the Clippers honored Paul in the first quarter with a video tribute of his Clippers highlights, ending with, “Thank You CP3,” he was cheered.
“We didn’t mention Chris today,” Doc Rivers said. “We talked about the Rockets, honestly.