Rockets, Clippers clash in possible playoff preview

( - In what could be a possible Western Conference playoff preview, the Houston Rockets will visit the Staples Center Sunday afternoon to face the Los Angeles Clippers, who may get a huge boost in this matinee.

Blake Griffin, who has missed 15 games after surgery to remove a staph infection from his right elbow, could make his return on Sunday afternoon. If not Sunday, then he will return to the Clippers on Tuesday.

The Clippers trail the Rockets by 1 1/2 games for the fourth seed in the Western Conference.

Los Angeles had a two-game winning streak snapped with extreme prejudice Friday night in a 129-99 road loss to the Dallas Mavericks. The Clips opened their two-game road trip with a 12-point victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday.

J.J. Redick had 17 points and DeAndre Jordan chipped in 16 points and 18 rebounds for the Clippers. Jordan hit his first career 3-pointer when he barely beat the shot clock for LA's first points of the night. He air-balled a free throw later in the quarter.

Chris Paul had 11 points and seven assists, while Matt Barnes scored 14 for the visitors, who went 12-of-32 from 3-point range.

The Mavs were in front 59-51 at the half, then pulled away by shooting 13- of-21 in the third quarter.

"They made shots, but our defense helped them," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said after the game.

The Rockets have lost two straight after they began this four-game trek with a win over the Denver Nuggets. Houston fell to the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday, then got clobbered by the Utah Jazz, 109-91, on Thursday.

The Rockets had no answer for Rudy Gobert, who scored a career-high 19 points to go along with 22 rebounds.

Corey Brewer went for a team-high 25 points off the bench in the loss, while James Harden was limited to 15 points on 3-of-13 shooting.

Donatas Motiejunas had 13 points on 6-for-12 shooting and Terrence Jones registered a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds.

"They just dominated the paint. We couldn't make a jump shot for a while there. They played well, dominated the glass. We had nothing for them," Rockets coach Kevin McHale said.

The Jazz held a 57-37 advantage on the boards.

Gordon Hayward's free throws closed the half with under a second on the clock to give the hosts a 53-43 lead. Joe Ingles canned a 3-pointer with under 3 1/2 minutes left in the third that stretched Utah's margin to 22 and it cruised the rest of the way to extend its winning streak.

The Rockets return home for three straight against the Orlando Magic, Denver Nuggets and Phoenix Suns.

Houston bettered the Clippers by five on Feb. 25 to halt a six-game series losing streak. LA is 11-3 recently versus the Rockets and has won seven straight at the Staples Center against Houston.