Clippers ignite early in 106-96 victory over Rockets

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For the first time in 17 days, the Clippers played a game at home.

It was smooth at times and choppy at other times, the jolt of energy early on waning as the game against the Houston Rockets at Staples Center progressed.

But with five players scoring in double figures, the Clippers defeated the Rockets, 106-96, on Wednesday night.

The Clippers had returned home from an eight-game, 13-day trip early Tuesday morning, tired and weary but content having gone 4-4.

They scored 46 points in the first quarter against the Rockets and opened a 23-point lead in the first half, making the game look easy.

“Well, we obviously got off to a great start,” Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro said.

But the Clippers had nine turnovers in the third quarter, giving the Rockets some life.

It was enough for Houston to slice the Clippers’ lead to 11 points with 8 minutes 56 seconds left.

“We got sluggish there in the second half, I thought,” Del Negro said.

It took Blake Griffin’s 20 points, 11 rebounds and five assists for the Clippers to win for the fourth time in five games.

It took a double-double from Chris Paul of 10 points and 11 assists.

Chauncey Billups and Caron Butler, who both sat out the Philadelphia game on Monday night with sore lower backs, started for the Clippers and played big roles in the victory.

Billups had a season-high 19 points on six-for-nine shooting, including four of seven on three-pointers.

“When he’s shooting like he was tonight, it gives us another weapon out there,” Del Negro said. “It was great to see him out there.”

Butler had 19 points on eight-for-15 shooting.

Rockets All-Star guard James Harden didn’t play because of a sprained right ankle, but that wasn’t a concern for the Clippers.

The Clippers scored a season high for points in the first quarter.

They shot a sizzling 77.3% from the field in the first, 75% (six for eight) from three-point range.

“We had a big first quarter,” Del Negro said. “That kind of set the tone for us. And then we did enough in the second half to make sure we got the win.”

Butler was the man for the Clippers in the first quarter, scoring 17 points. He missed just two of his nine shots and made all three of his three-pointers.

“Caron got us off to a really good start,” Del Negro said.

The Clippers scored a season-high 69 points in the first half, despite scoring only 23 points in the second quarter.

That’s because the Clippers went cold in the quarter, making just 31.8% of their shots.

They saw a 51-28 second-quarter lead sliced to 11 points before the Clippers went back up by 20 at the half.

The Clippers play the Lakers on Thursday night in the Lakers’ designated home game in the arena the teams share.

It will be the last game before the All-Star break this weekend.

“It was a good win after a long road trip,” Del Negro said.

“And we have the back-to-back tomorrow night.”

Twitter: @BA_Turner