Los Angeles, CA (SportsNetwork.com) - The returning Chris Paul wasn't getting the loudest cheers on Friday night, that distinction went to his Game 1 and 2 replacement.
Austin Rivers scored 25 points, most coming in a game-clinching run in the second half as the Los Angeles Clippers routed the Houston Rockets 124-99 in Game 3 of their Western Conference semifinals.
Rivers netted 18 points during a 23-0 surge which began late in the third quarter and bled into the fourth. It began with a Rivers 3-pointer after Corey Brewer hit a 3 to pull the Rockets within 81-76 at the 3:50 mark of the third. Rivers tallied a pair of three-point plays to close the frame, with DeAndre Jordan splitting two free throws in the waning seconds to make it a 99-76 game heading into the final frame.
"If Lester or Matt did the same thing, I would've been proud," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said of his son Austin.
Rivers capped the burst with another triple to stake the Clippers to a healthy 104-76 cushion, and the hosts cruised to the easy triumph from there.
"He played very well, he got it going," Rockets coach Kevin McHale said.
Paul, who had a minutes restriction and limped at times because of a hamstring injury, finished with 12 points and seven assists in just over 23 minutes of action.
Paul missed the first two games of the series after suffering the injury during Game 7 of the Clippers' first-round series against the San Antonio Spurs. He hit the go-ahead basket with a second remaining in that game to lift Los Angeles into the semis.
"I thought CP looked ok, I didn't think he looked great," Rivers said. "As the game went on I though he looked more comfortable."
LA still managed a split in Houston due to the heroics of Blake Griffin, who posted a triple-double of 26 points, 14 rebounds and 13 assists in its 117-101 Game 1 victory Monday.
Griffin had 22 points and 14 boards in this one.
J.J. Redick netted a game-high 31 points and Jordan snatched 15 rebounds for the third-seeded Clippers, who led by as many as 32.
Game 4 is Sunday in Los Angeles.
James Harden provided 25 points and 11 assists, while Dwight Howard supplied 14 points and 14 boards for second-seeded Houston.
Paul tallied five of his helpers in the first four-plus minutes of the game. He found Griffin in stride with a pair of perfect pocket passes for thunderous dunks and the third dish to Griffin resulted in a layup for a 15-13 Clippers advantage at the 7:32 mark.
LA netted the final seven points of the opening frame, holding Houston scoreless for the final 3:38 of the period. Jamal Crawford's running hook shot from the baseline staked the Clippers to a 33-24 margin heading into the second.
The Clippers maintained a comfortable cushion throughout the second and utilized the Hack-A-Howard fouling strategy up 56-46 in the final few minutes of the half. Howard went 3-of-6 from the foul line during the stretch.
The Clippers, however, didn't build on their lead and Harden's jumper in the waning seconds cut the deficit to 64-57 at the break.
Harden, who didn't attempt a free throw in the first half, took his first two shots from the charity stripe at the 10:38 mark of the third. He sunk both to whittle the deficit to 64-59.
Five points was as close as the Rockets got in the second half.
The Clippers shot 55.4 percent (46-of-83) from the field and nailed 13-of-29 from beyond the arc, while Houston shot 39.8 percent (35-of-88) from the floor and made 11-of-33 from long distance ... Paul started all 82 games during the regular season for the first time in his 10-year NBA career ... The Clippers scored 23 points off 15 Houston turnovers.