Clips visit Houston for high-offense showdown

( - Dwight Howard failed to tip bragging rights into his favor against a former employer, but has a chance to even things Saturday versus a Los Angeles Clippers squad that defeated the Houston Rockets less than a week ago.

Howard and the Rockets dropped a tough 99-98 decision to the Los Angeles Lakers, a team the All-Star center spent the 2012-13 season with before joining Houston via free agency this past summer. Howard opted not to team up with Kobe Bryant again and felt it was best to join forces with James Harden and have most of the offense go through him.

Howard missed a bevy of free throws down the stretch in Thursday's loss, including a 1-for-6 effort in the final three minutes, and was just 5-of-16 from the foul line. He ended with 15 points and 14 rebounds, and did not get on Lakers guard Steve Blake in time for the game-winning 3-pointer.

"Guys just kind of messed up on the play," Howard said. "It happens, we just have to come back next game and make sure we have a better start. We got back into the game but we didn't finish them off. There are a lot of things we need to work on."

Patrick Beverley's desperation 3-pointer from the right wing was off the mark at the horn. Harden, who sank 14-of-16 free throws, pumped in 35 points, grabbed nine rebounds and handed out five assists, while Chandler Parsons and Jeremy Lin had 16 points apiece.

Harden didn't seem to have a problem knocking down free throws when the Lakers sent him to the line and was asked about Howard's struggles from the stripe.

"He's working on his free throws. He has confidence to go up there and knock them down," Harden said. "He's working on them every single day. We have confidence that he will go up there and make them."

The Rockets have lost two of three games since a 3-0 start to the season and will also host the Toronto Raptors on this three-game homestand.

Los Angeles is mired in a two-game slide after winning three in a row and suffered a 102-97 setback at Miami on Thursday. Blake Griffin's 27 points and 14 rebounds weren't enough for the Clippers, who shot 49.3 percent from the floor and received 11 points and 12 assists from Chris Paul.

J.J. Redick had 15 points and DeAndre Jordan chipped in 11 to go along with 14 rebounds. Jordan has 33 rebounds in his last two games. Jamal Crawford scored 14 points off the bench for Los Angeles, which lost the opener of a back-to- back in Orlando on Wednesday.

"I thought in the first half that we dictated the pace. You can see that in the third quarter, they slowed the game down but then we slowed the game down with them," Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said.

The Clippers, whose 19 turnovers led to 24 Miami points, have allowed 100-plus points five times in six games this season and are one of the worst in opponents' scoring. Committing turnovers generally doesn't aid a defense.

"We threw bad passes. I just thought we lost the pace of the game," Rivers stated. "I thought in the first half we dictated the pace the whole half. I think everybody says you don't run against Miami. I think it's the exact opposite. You do."

In injury news for the Clippers, veteran forward and defensive stalwart Matt Barnes is questionable Saturday with a bruised right thigh.

The Clippers and Rockets are two of the highest-scoring teams in the NBA and also two of the worst on defense. They just met on Monday in a 137-118 victory by L.A. at Staples Center in Howard's return to Hollywood. Redick led seven players in double figures with 26 points and Paul added 23 and 17 assists.

Harden and Howard combined for 28 points, as the Rockets lost for the seventh time in nine tries in this series.

Los Angeles, though, has lost eight of 11 and 14 of the last 19 at Houston.