Houston, TX (SportsNetwork.com) - Chris Paul watched from the sideline as his teammates stole homecourt advantage in the Western Conference semifinals.
There was no shortage of Clippers stepping up in the series opener, with six scoring in double figures in a 117-101 victory over the well-rested Rockets.
Paul gamely fought through a hamstring strain in Game 7 against the Spurs on Saturday and banked in the game-winning runner to cap an epic series and send the Clippers into the second round.
The injury forced Paul out on Monday's game, and while he was surely missed -- the Clippers turned it over 23 times -- Doc Rivers' bunch accepted the challenge of playing without their All-Star point guard.
"They knew this would be different without Chris in the way we played, and they accepted that," a jovial Rivers said following the win.
Blake Griffin was particularly special, recording his third triple-double of the playoffs with a monster performance of 26 points, 14 rebounds and 13 assists.
"Blake was sensational," Rivers added. "He stopped looking to score at one point, and I looked at him and told him he had to do everything...and he did."
Jamal Crawford chipped in with 21 points off the bench, Matt Barnes added 20 and J.J. Redick scored all 17 of his points in a second half completely controlled by Los Angeles.
Even Austin Rivers, plugged in as a starter for Paul, netted 17 points for the Clippers, who can take a commanding series lead when these teams meet again Wednesday.
The Rockets wilted down the stretch even though they had plenty of rest after knocking out the Mavericks last Tuesday. They surrendered 34 points off 24 turnovers and were outscored 71-51 in the second half.
"They kicked our ass, that's the bottom line," Rockets head coach Kevin McHale said. "There's no excuse. They played better than we did. They wanted it more. We looked and felt a half-a-step slow the whole night."
James Harden, on the same day of learning he finished second to Stephen Curry in MVP voting, checked in with 20 points and 12 assists but turned it over nine times and went nearly 18 minutes without a field goal in the second half.
Dwight Howard also posted a double-double with 22 points and 10 rebounds, while Trevor Ariza contributed 17 points in a losing effort.
Following Saturday's dog fight, the Clippers predictably started slow. In the first half they shot 2-of-15 from 3-point range and turned the ball over 13 times. After Pablo Prigioni capped a 9-0 run early in the second quarter, Houston led 34-21 and looked poised to build a bigger lead.
The Rockets, though, shot 4-of-17 (23.5 percent) the rest of the half and saw their lead trimmed to 50-46 at the break.
Other than a Howard alley-oop on Houston's first possession, the third quarter was owned by the Clippers, who exploded for 37 points thanks to making two- thirds of their shots (12-of-18) and all six of their 3-point attempts.
The quarter was summed up by Crawford banking in a 3 from the top of the key in the final seconds and Houston getting called for a loose ball foul just before the buzzer. Redick capped his 12-point quarter with two free throws to give the Clippers an 83-77 lead heading to the fourth.
The deficit was cut to 89-88 five minutes into the second half, but a 12-0 run took the life out of the Rockets. After Barnes' second 3-pointer during the stretch, DeAndre Jordan swatted a Harden shot that lead a fastbreak ending in a corner 3 from Crawford. Redick's runner on the next possession made it a 101-88 game, and the Clippers cruised over the final three minutes.
Griffin is the first player since Jason Kidd and Baron Davis in 2002 to post consecutive playoff triple-doubles ... Jordan tallied 10 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks ... Howard had five blocks ... Los Angeles shot 11-of-16 from 3-point range after halftime.