Clippers ride strong start to win over Rockets

Blake Griffin tallied 20 points and 11 rebounds as the Los Angeles Clippers made it look easy in taking a 106-96 victory over a Houston Rockets team playing without James Harden.

The Clippers got off to an impressive start, falling just shy of 50 points before the end of the first quarter. Chauncey Billups and Caron Butler each contributed 19 points to help Los Angeles to its third win in a row.

Chris Paul added 10 points and 11 assists for the Clippers, who will play their Staples Center co-tenants in the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday prior to the All-Star break.

Without their leading scorer, the Rockets fell into a large deficit early and were unable to recover. Harden, who injured his ankle on Tuesday against the Golden State Warriors, was a late scratch after experiencing soreness during warmups.

Chandler Parsons scored 17 points, while Jeremy Lin and James Anderson each donated 14 in the setback.

"We didn't come out ready to play, we had no ball pressure," said Rockets coach Kevin McHale. "They pressured us a lot and we weren't really poised with the ball. We won't win when we don't defend."

The Clippers got rolling early, dropping a 46-spot on the Rockets in the opening quarter before totaling 69 points by halftime.

Los Angeles had a sensational 77.3 shooting percentage in the first, where Butler scored 17 of his points by knocking down 7-of-9 from the field -- including a trio of triples without a miss -- to help the Clippers to 46-28 lead heading into the second.

Despite holding Los Angeles to just 23 points in the second quarter, the Rockets dug themselves too deep a hole and still trailed by double-digits throughout the period, and as it would turn out, for the rest of the game as well.

After their margin was reduced at 58-47, the Clippers upped their advantage to 20 by the break following an 11-2 push highlighted by a pair of Billups 3- pointers. He made 4-of-7 from long distance for the night.

"I'm doing better but I'm not quite in game shape," said Billups, who played 19 minutes in just his sixth game of the season. "It will take a couple more weeks. Guys focused tonight, with two games before the break we wanted to play well."

The Clippers converted 9-of-16 from 3-point range in the opening half, but made shot just 4-for-16 from long distance over the final two periods.

Nevertheless, Los Angeles cruised the entire second half, only seeing its margin reduced to 10 points in the final 30 seconds of play.

Game Notes

Los Angeles has defeated Houston in five straight contests ... The Rockets failed to score 100 points for the first time in 11 games ... Jamal Crawford scored 13 points of the bench for the Clippers ... After making his first three 3-pointers, Butler missed his final five attempts from long distance ... The Clippers shot 49.3 percent from the field, while the Rockets made just 43.9 percent from the floor.